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Early Achievers Program Helps Goddard School Prepare Students for Elementary School

April  03, 2013 / The Goddard School located in Redmond, WA volunteered to be part of the Washington Early Achievers program. The program helps teachers enhance their skills and, in turn, helps students better prepare for a successful career in school.

As someone working in early education, Jenna Norwood knows how things can become routine — how easy it can get to just go through the motions and do the mechanical things.

So when The Goddard School on Redmond Ridge — where she is an instructor for 3-and-a-half to 4-year-olds — volunteered to participate in the Washington Early Achievers program in August 2012, Norwood saw it as a way to help her improve her teaching skills and help students better prepare for a successful career in school.

"This really has been the key," she said about being able to take a look at her skills as an educator and find where she can improve.

Early Achievers is a Department of Early Learning (DEL) quality rating and improvement program. DEL spokesperson Amy Blondin said it is voluntary for early education programs statewide and offers incentives including access to scholarships for continuing education, specialized one-on-one coaching and annual cash incentives. The program is funded by federal dollars in the form of two grants: the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge and the Childcare and Development grants. Many states throughout the country have similar programs.

Blondin said Early Achievers is funded through 2016, so they have four years to build the program and gather data to prove that it is worth a state investment.

"We think it's pretty critical," she said about the importance of having well-trained teachers who focus on students' individual needs and work to build relationships with the families they serve.

Early Achievers offers online training as well as on-the-ground training. The latter is provided by Child Care Aware, whose representatives visit sites such as The Goddard School on Redmond Ridge — as well as the location in Redmond — to assess and evaluate teachers and provide feedback.

"We rate fairly high on evaluations," said Lynda Clements, director of The Goddard School on Redmond Ridge. "We have a good-quality program."

Clements said Early Achievers is focused on teacher-child interaction to improve children's critical-thinking skills.

"The whole point is to make the classroom rich with conversation," she said.

One of the things teachers learn from the program is how to ask students questions to get them thinking and after about seven and a half months of The Goddard School's participation in Early Achievers, Norwood  has seen progress. She said she has even seen her students using this technique among themselves, as well, asking each other questions in conversations throughout the day.

"Then you know it's really helping a lot," she said.The Goddard School is a national franchise with locations throughout the country. The Redmond Ridge and Redmond locations are owned by Shauna and Jeff Barison. Shauna, who is the onsite owner for Redmond Ridge (her husband is at the Redmond location), said they have classes for children from 6 weeks up to pre-kindergarten.

Goddard's philosophy is learning through fun and Tony Padulo, the company's vice president of franchise development, said they are always evolving and wanting to excel, which made it natural for their schools to participate in Early Achievers and similar programs nationwide.

"Our philosophy is based on individual learning and more geared around the children's needs at the time," Padulo said.

He added that day-to-day activities in the classroom are flexible and can change depending on what is happening that day. Goddard classrooms are also interactive with the goal of encouraging kids to be inquisitive and not be afraid to ask questions.

Norwood agreed and said the techniques she has learned through Early Achievers — asking students questions throughout the day — and applied in the classroom has also empowered students.

"They can thrive from all of that," she said. "They feel powerful because they have the answer."

By Samantha Pak
Redmond Reporter Reporter

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