TEACHING PRE-K WITH LOVE
The pandemic has brought on a whole new array of things teachers need to pay attention to, and pre-kindergarten is a challenge on its own.
Maroha Sauvageau, a pre-K teacher at Cornelius Elementary School, is back in the classroom after months of teaching online.
“Imagine teaching a 4-year-old through an iPad,” Sauvageau said.
Pre-K teachers around the country have struggled with remote teaching — especially because pre-K is often the first time a child is in school at all.
One of the hardest things, Sauvageau said, was not being able to connect with her students.
“You need to connect so they can trust you and know that you are there for them. (The classroom) is a place where they need to feel safe,” she said. “Every day is aiming towards that goal, creating a sense of community and connection before even teaching academics.”
People might think that challenge is over this year because most students and teachers are back in school. Of course, teachers must worry about cleaning protocols, but school seems to be — more or less — back to normal now.
But that’s not entirely true for pre-K. With very young children, teachers need to work a lot harder when social distancing and face masks are required.
“It’s just sad — I cannot see their whole face,” Sauvageau said, “and vice versa, to show emotion.”
And she misses the hugs, too. Sauvageau used to greet every student when they walked in with a hug, a high-five or whatever greeting the kid chose. Now, they can’t be close together.
But Sauvageau still makes the point to greet all her students individually, whether it’s an “air hug,” a wave or something creative she thought of like tapping their shoes. Each student has to make eye contact and say “good morning” or “buenos días,” too.
Sauvageau laughed. Maybe it was the masks, she said, but a lot of kids just looked at her silently and waved. She worked around that by making the greetings fun and getting to know each student on a deeper level.
Her class is partially structured time, where her students work on academics, and partially unstructured time, where they explore the eight or so “centers” Sauvageau set up around the classroom.
“That is a wonderful time for me to go and play with them and connect with them and develop our relationship — have fun,” she said. “And also do meaningful talk. During those times we count, we classify, we talk about ideas.”
Sauvageau is amazing at connecting with her students and figuring out how they will learn best. Principal Angella Graves, who nominated Sauvageau for Pamplin Media Group’s Amazing Educators, said she is “loving, nurturing and just the quintessential preschool teacher.”
Almost all Sauvageau’s students leave her class at or above the level they need to be, Graves said, even if they came into the classroom a little behind.
“She’s like the best teacher in the state of Oregon,” Graves said.
It’s difficult to describe her favorite part about working with the kids, Sauvageau said. It’s not just the connection and love she shares with the pre-K students, but it’s also the honor of watching them discover, learn and grow.
“To be the witness when they are learning something, and they make that expression, like, ‘Ah. Oh my goodness. I did that.’ I love that part, too,” Sauvageau said. “Because I feel like part of the building block. It’s like an honor. I love that part of my job, to be there with them when they learn something.”