DISTRICT GROWING PRESCHOOL PROGRAM -
September 30, 2006
TEACHERS SEE IMPORTANCE OF EARLY START
Author: Georgann Yara, Special for The Republic Estimated printed pages: 3
Preschool teacher Tiffany Rudolph placed red-handled shovels in her students'
tiny hands and guided them through their Tuesday morning task:
planting flower seeds in the grassy area just outside of their classroom at
Holdeman Elementary School.
Rudolph quickly moved her preschoolers through painting, rock garden exploration
and other flower-related activities that fit the day's gardening theme.
Laughter and excited squeals indicated students are having fun. However,
preschool is not just about fun and games anymore.
"Things have changed," said Rudolph, whose students learn the alphabet, numbers
and language skills.
The Holdeman preschool is the newest addition to the Tempe Elementary School
District. It is the third in the district's long-term goal to have a preschool
program on each elementary campus. The fourth, to be at Nevitt Elmentary School,
will open in November and already has 16 students registered.
Holdeman Principal Gail Hales said parent feedback has been "wonderful."
Students, who must turn 4 by Dec. 31, learn skills that are a necessary part of
kindergarten. These include adhering to a routine, following directions, taking
turns and communicating with others. Hales said bilingual students also get a
head start on English.
"A number of them have older siblings here, so they are excited because they get
to go to school too. It's very cool," Hales said.
The morning class is at capacity, but there are openings for Holdeman's
District data shows that students who attended the older preschools at Frank and
Evans earn higher literacy marks and tend to be the class leaders, said early
childhood education coordinator Andrea Colby. She said teachers notice a
smoother transition into kindergarten, too.
"I think that people realize now the importance of preschool and how much that
helps children once they get into kindergarten," she said.
"It's not just a time to play and get along socially. It's definitely an
Rudolph said self-confidence lays the groundwork for that success.
"That's where the academics come into play. If they learn confidence in doing
some things here, they will feel confident when they try to do other things,"
Preschool is offered free to families who live in the district and is funded
completely by grants and donations. A $40,000 donation by the Tempe Diablos was
key in establishing the Holdeman program this year, and a pledge of $40,000 for
next year will help with future classes.
In addition to the normal duties that come with running a school district,
Superintendent Arthur Tate meets with potential donors, sharing his vision in
hopes their generosity can make it reality.
Diablos executive secretary Arnold Davis said Tate's compelling case made the
decision to donate an easy one.
"We're all about youth and education and the betterment of the city of Tempe.
His appeal was quite touching to us," he said. "If you get children involved in
education early, their success rate is dramatically improved."
Tate said he is working on coordinating a fund-raising event and creating an
advisory board to come up with other funding ideas. Tate said start-up costs run
$100,000 per site.
He estimates the district needs $250,000 to maintain the preschools next year.
This year, the Nevitt preschool is funded by a federal grant. The program is not
eligible for state funds.
Preschool students are accepted based on need, whether it be economic, a
language barrier or a family in transition. Tate estimated there are as many as
700 children in the district who would benefit from preschool. Class capacity is
Hales described seeing Tate's face beaming as he watched Holdeman's preschoolers
running outside and working on projects in class on their first day.
Tate recalled that morning.
"What I was feeling was knowing the benefit the kids are receiving in a school
with a curriculum program with qualified staff. It was extremely satisfying," he
"My thought was that there was something significant happening to these
CAPTION: Preschool students (from left) Esmeralda Salazar, Briana Hardiman,
Andrea Lewis and Earley Coleman hang out together at Holdeman Elementary in
Tempe, the latest school to offer preschool classes.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Tempe Republic
Index Terms: JUVENILE
Copyright (c) The Arizona Republic. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the
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Record Number: pho152370345