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The City Journals

Preschool provides learning experiences for preschoolers and teens

Mar 17, 2021 11:23AM ● By Jet Burnham

Lanna Loring is able to give individualized attention to a preschool student because teacher to student ratios are low at Junior Jags Preschool. (Rachel Stephenson/WJHS)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

This month, kids at Copper Cubs Preschool will be counting Lucky Charms marshmallows, graphing rainbows and clovers, and finding rhyming words on gold coins. These St. Patrick’s Day inspired lesson plans were created and will be taught by high school students who are teachers at Copper Cubs Preschool, which is part of the Early Childhood Development Department at Copper Hills High School.

Each of the six high schools in Jordan District house a preschool lab. High school students take prerequisite classes in child development to prepare them to work in the preschool, where they get hands-on experience to apply what they’ve learned with support from adult faculty.

Rachel Stephenson, director of Junior Jags Preschool at West Jordan High School, said the high school-based preschools offer a lower student to teacher ratio than other community preschools. Because so many students are interested in taking the class, there is usually one teacher for two or three kids and often even one-on-one.


“The children get individual help with writing their name and holding scissors the right way, and they get books read to them often, one-on-one or one teacher to two kids,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson said high school students are great teachers for preschoolers.

“I think there is a very high amount of love and care,” she said. “These high school students love the little kids. They are doing this class because they want to be in the class, and they give these children attention. These high school students are not burnt out.”

"Being a preschool teacher is a whole lot of fun; you have the best moments ever,” said WJHS student Lanna Loring. “Every kid is so unique, and I love watching them grow.”

Another WJHS student Lilian Wade said, "I love going to preschool and bonding with the kids. I get experience working and teaching younger children every day.”

The preschool curriculum includes a lesson on the theme of the day; activities in math, science, art and language arts; movement; music; free play; and snack time.

Jessica Patterson said Junior Jags has been a wonderful learning environment for her daughter.

“The amazing teachers and student teachers have fueled her appetite for learning,” she said. “She enjoys doing homework, reading time and sharing art projects she has made. She loves to sing songs that she learned at school to her baby sister.” 

Melissa Houston likes the academic focus. 

“My daughter is always excited to show me the fun projects she's made and the letter or number practice pages she's done,” she said. “She loves the homework practice sheets that are optional. I love the Reading Passport that allows her to keep track of what books she's read at home for the month and pick out a prize at the start of the next month. It's a great blend of learning at school supported by parent interaction.”

Being housed at the high school, the preschool has access to school resources, such as big indoor and outdoor areas to hold activities. The Copper Cubs went on a walk to spot animals in the pictures of the school hallways for Zoo Day in February and will follow the trail of tiny feet in the hallways on their leprechaun hunt in March.

At WJHS, the kids visit the animals in the Agricultural Science Department. Both preschools also host visitors such as magicians, puppeteers and the fire department.

“Many activities—special dress-up days, class photos, special visitors, etc.—make this school very unique and special,” said Wendy McConnehey, whose son attends Junior Jags.

Teaching in the preschool prepares the high schooler students for future careers. They learn basic job skills and leadership skills that can be applied to any job, said Sherrie Eloff, preschool director at CHHS, but the hands-on experience is especially beneficial for those students considering careers working with children.

“If they are at all interested in possibly going into teaching, then it gives them a good indicator of whether or not they're going to like it,” Eloff said.

Emma Jensen took childhood development classes at CHHS and decided she wants to become a preschool teacher. Now a senior, she is teaching in the Copper Cubs classroom and gaining confidence in her abilities.

“It's definitely made me less scared about being in front of a big group of kids teaching and to handle situations when they happen,” Jensen said.

Isabelle Maudsley, a junior at CHHS, believes learning how to develop age-appropriate lesson plans, communication skills and patience in the preschool class will help her to be a good elementary school teacher.

“It's honestly been an amazing experience because it has prepared me for my future more than any other class I've had,” Maudsley said.

Sarah Higley, who now works as a paid adult aide at Copper Cubs while studying to become an elementary school teacher, said the hands-on experiences she had as a junior and senior in the preschool lab class gave her a glimpse of what it would be like to be an elementary teacher, so she knew she wasn’t wasting time and money pursuing a teaching degree in college..

“I had many teachers in elementary that quit after their first year because they didn't have the hands-on experience and know what to expect when you're teaching,” Higley said. “I'm grateful that I was able to be in the preschool program at CHHS. It has made me learn to be a better teacher.”

Preschool classes are 2 hours and 15 minutes, Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday. Registration for next year is open now for 3- and 4-year-olds.

For more information about Junior Jags, email Rachel Stephenson [email protected], call West Jordan High School, or visit the WJHS website

For more information about Copper Cubs, email Sherrie Eloff at [email protected], call Copper Hills High School, or visit the CHHS website.