The early childhood program (Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten) establishes a solid foundation for skills that are necessary in order to be successful in the succeeding years of school. Students learn the value of getting along with others as they develop a desire to learn, use their natural curiosity to explore the world around them, hone critical academic skills, and increase their confidence in their own individual abilities.
The Pre-Kindergarten program is designed to address the developmental differences and learning preferences of the emergent learner. Planned learning activities and materials appropriate to the child’s developmental age are combined with a positive, warm, healthy, and safe environment to give children an opportunity to gain self-confidence and master skills.
Pre-Kindergarten students participate in language arts, math, science, creative art, dramatic play, music, and computers through learning centers and group activities. The curriculum is presented in thematic units that are designed to promote optimal physical, mental, social, and spiritual growth in each child. Classroom instruction meets state standards.
Kayla Thom is not your typical pre-kindergarten teacher. She started as a communication major, but after two years of teaching grades 7 and 8 in Majuro, Marshall Islands, she changed her major to secondary language arts education. Little did she know that she would change her course of action once again as a result of working her was way through college as an assistant director of a day care center in Lincoln, NE. Upon completion of her college coursework, she made her way east and several months later was asked to head up our new pre-kindergarten program. Her students' parents would declare that she is the best pre-kindergarten teacher anywhere.
From early childhood, Ms. Thom has been a voracious reader. She especially loves children's literature and the classics. She is fond of biographies and enjoys reading works by C.S. Lewis and Jan Karon. She is especially fond of The Chronicles of Narnia series, the Mitford Series, and many of the Newberry and Caldecott award winners. Ms. Thom's stated goal is to instill a love for books in her students.
Outside the classroom Ms. Thom enjoys Jazzercise, group fitness activities, and running. She also enjoys sports, and particularly likes cheering for the underdog. Other hobbies include travel, art and photography, reading, scrapbooking, baking, and experimenting with cooking that will accommodate her allergy needs.
Some of Ms. Thom's favorite places she has been and things she has enjoyed doing are hiking to the top of a big hill in Guam; jumping off a waterfall in Pohnpei; visiting Antigua and Guatemala; watching the rolling waves of grain in her home state of North Dakota, going to Disney World (She's a kid at heart!); fishing on the lakes of Minnesota and Canada, and traveling to Yellowstone National Park. Future goals include filling up her passport as many times as possible, visiting each state in the US, running a marathon, going on a cruise, swimming with dolphins, skydiving, and going to an NFL game.
Quote: "I am a teacher because God called me to teach. I love watching my students grow, explore, and discover God's love. Play is learning - that's one of the biggest reasons I love teaching preschool!"
Kindergarten is the first direct contact with school that many students experience. Atholton Adventist Academy wants this initial contact to be a positive, happy experience. Students begin school at varying levels of developmental growth. To meet the needs of each student individually, Atholton Adventist Academy has designed a curriculum that incorporates classroom activities and learning centers to help students develop physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually and to nurture their natural curiosity and desire to learn. Kindergarten instruction provides readiness training that prepares students for the next levels of their education. Following Kindergarten, Grade 1 placement is determined by testing and teacher evaluation.
Juanita Parker-Smith, originally from Richmond, California, has taught kindergarten at Atholton for the past five years. Her diverse background includes a wide range of teaching experiences from early childhood to adult education. She has been a job training counselor with the Job Training Partnership Act, as well as a GED instructor. She also owned and operated her own tutoring center where she taught basic reading and math skills. For two years, Ms. Smith taught at an Adventist-run international school in Bangkok, Thailand. Some of her other experiences which add to her portfolio are stints as an inner-city ministry program director, a test administrator, and a clinical research associate in the Psychology Department at Duke University Medical Center. Of all these experiences, Ms. Smith most enjoys teaching. She says that bringing out each student’s creativity is her favorite part of teaching.
Ms. Smith enjoys a wide variety of hobbies, including traveling, sewing, entertaining, hiking, camping, and, best of all, shopping. She admits to being “directionally challenged,” but says, “I can always find a mall. Can’t find the right street, but can always find the mall!” Just don’t ask her where her car is parked when it’s time to go home. Reading is also a favorite hobby. Ms. Smith enjoys reading many genres such adventure, nature, psychology, poetry, health and fitness, history, and relationships. Her musical tastes include gospel, Christian, easy listening, classical, and instrumental.
Ms. Smith’s travels have taken her to most of the states in the US as well as to Thailand, Hong Kong, India, and Canada. In the near future, she’d like to tour Venice, Italy in a gondola and Hawaii on a cruise ship. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of Ms. Smith’s travel dreams. Her “bucket list” of other places to go and things to do is “way longer than that,” she says.
Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten participate in Physical Education daily and Spanish instruction twice a week. Computers augument the regular curriculum through educational software used for reading, math, and other curricular areas.