In light of recent survey findings that only one in three children are ready for kindergarten, I talked with Jefferson County’s first Master-certified preschool teacher to learn more about kindergarten readiness. Ever since the second grade, Shaunta Miller wanted to be a school teacher. Today, she is breaking new ground as an educator, working with pre-kindergarten children at Presbyterian Community Center’s Child Development Center in the Camp Edwards building, near downtown Louisville. Miller is a highly-respected educator who has received recognition through Metro United Way’s Early Childhood Excellence Academy program, sponsored by the Lift A Life Foundation. Being the first to reach the highest level of Master in the program, she shares her perspective on education, Presbyterian Child Development’s aggressive approach to preparing kids for kindergarten and why she is happy her own grandchildren are there.
LORI KOMMOR: We’ve heard a lot lately that many children in our area are not ready for kindergarten, creating a learning gap that follows them throughout their education. What are you and Presbyterian Child Development Center doing to change that?
SHAUNTA MILLER: The Early Childhood Excellence Academy (ECEA) works with early education teachers to make changes to their classrooms and demonstrate new teaching methods, offering incentives and rewards along the way. Presbyterian Child Development Center is one of 13 ECEA learning centers and we have six teachers in the program besides me, and all are progressing as well. Here, we have been emphasizing these “new” methods for many years, always focused on making sure these children enter kindergarten, ready to learn and grow. For example, we make sure we create the right environment for learning, and we also provide “Interest Areas” in the classroom – these are specially designed areas where the students can engage in art, literature or science – it’s all about colors and visuals, and helping them enjoy the learning process.
KOMMOR: I was surprised to learn that children come from all over town, including Eastern Jefferson County, to attend classes at Presbyterian Child Development Center.
MILLER: Yes, they do. While we have always had a strong early education program, with the new building and the Child Development Center facility that is open to anyone in Louisville, we offer a way for children to be introduced to the fun of learning, while also becoming part of a community. Many of the parents whose children are in the Child Development Center work downtown, and many do not even live in the immediate neighborhood area. We have children from all over Louisville here, but it’s particularly convenient for parents who work downtown.
KOMMOR: How do you know you have had an impact on the children?
MILLER: I have had several kindergarten teachers personally reach out and thank me, telling me they love when they get kids from my classroom because they can tell those kids were well-prepared here for their classroom. I’ve also seen education experts visit my classroom with their eyes lighting up, noticing how my room is set up and arranged. Even 16 years ago when I started here, they noticed that our classroom environment was designed to help these children learn.
KOMMOR: What is one of the most important factors in teaching children and getting them ready to learn?
MILLER: Through my experience, I know that the most important thing is parents who are involved in their child’s education. Together, we can look at how the child is doing in the classroom and at home – assessing what the child is eating, how much sleep they are getting and how they are progressing overall. Learning is a day-long, daily process that requires both the parents and the teachers work together, watching and observing so that we can help the child along the way.
KOMMOR: You are one very lucky grandparent, aren’t you?
MILLER: Yes, I am! All three of my grandchildren are here at Presbyterian Child Development Center. In fact, my 4-year-old grandchild is in my classroom, so I get to see them every single day! I certainly want my grandchildren to have an educational advantage, and that’s the other great benefit of having them here.