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Perspective | Davie County preschool teachers share ideas and support through community PLC group

“What types of music and movements help children to calm? What helps them get their energy up?”

Stephanie Nelson, Davie County’s preschool collaborative teacher, asked teachers these questions during February’s community preschool professional learning community (PLC) meeting last week. A lively discussion followed as the preschool teachers shared their favorite songs, props, and techniques for using creative movement and music activities to enrich classroom curriculum.

“The PLC meetings are led by the teachers and provide them an opportunity to offer support to each other and to share ideas to use in the classroom,” said Nelson. “My goal as the preschool collaborative teacher with the LEADS initiative is to support preschool teachers across the county in their understanding of kindergarten readiness based on the NC Foundations for Early Learning and Development.”

The role of the DavieLEADS program

DavieLEADS (Literacy Empowers All in Davie to Succeed) is the Mebane Foundation’s five-year, $2.5 million grant to Davie County Schools to improve kindergarten readiness and to increase the percentage of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

The community preschool PLC meetings began in May 2019.

“The child-care-based NC Pre-K teachers had been getting together for PLC meetings since before the LEADS initiative started but the group wanted to expand and include more preschool teachers for increased diversity of ideas and greater community collaboration,” explained Nelson. “We invited directors, owners, and teachers of 3 and 4-year-old children from all programs in Davie County; including licensed, unlicensed, faith-based, family child care homes, and public school sites.”

“As we were discussing logistics of where to meet, the idea of meeting in each other’s classrooms each time came up. The group immediately liked the idea.  It gives them an opportunity to see each other’s classrooms and gather ideas.  Additionally, we rotate meeting locations, for the convenience of attendees and to cut down on driving distance,” said Nelson.

From left to right, Pat Doby, Mudpies Child Development Center teacher, explains one of her classroom learning centers to First United Methodist Preschool teachers Sherri Hendrix and Holly Sinopoli.

Sharing ideas and support

Last week’s meeting was hosted at Mudpies Child Development Center in Mocksville in the classroom of Pat Doby, a veteran NC Pre-K teacher with 22 years of experience. Doby’s teaching day started at 6:30 a.m. Her willingness to stay on-site and to host the monthly meeting at 6:15 p.m. demonstrates the value that she and the other teachers find in the group.

“I initially went to get guidance on using Letterland but now I enjoy gaining ideas to use in my own classroom. I like to hear what works for other teachers,” said Holly Sinopoli who teaches 3-year-olds at First United Methodist Church.

“It’s nice to know that we are a community and that we are all in this together,” said Sarah Watkins, the director of Hillsdale Baptist Church Preschool.

“I appreciate the connectivity,” said Sherri Robinson who teaches 4-year-olds at Hillsdale. “We talk to kids all day long, so it’s nice to speak to other adults who share our same struggles and triumphs.”

Previous meeting topics have included:

  • How do you keep preschoolers engaged in group time at the end of the year?
  • Building classroom community, teaching routines & expectations
  • Social skill development and transitions
  • Social skill development, transitions, and how do you get student focus back when you have lost their attention?
  • Nifty, thrifty cheap ideas — Join us and share ideas for inexpensive teacher tools, student games or classroom resources

Attendance is voluntary. Seven teachers from four different preschool programs were at last week’s meeting, but Nelson said there have been as many as 15 teachers present. 

“We discussed at the beginning of the year that many of us wear multiple hats and will have conflicts with meeting dates at times,” explained Nelson. “We’ve purposely designed the meetings so that participants feel comfortable attending some months and missing others as conflicts arise.”

She also found a way to use technology to provide information and resources to teachers unable to attend the meetings.

“John Marshall (digital teaching and learning coordinator with Davie County Schools) taught me how to set up a Canvas digital platform which is typically used for online classes. Through Canvas, I can send messages, reminders, upload notes and share resources. I include links to internet sites or videos that relate to our PLC discussions. We also have an open discussion board if participants want to share ideas or ask questions between meetings,” she said.

Sherri Robinson (right) demonstrates an activity she uses in her classroom at Hillsdale Baptist Preschool while Sarah Watkins looks on.

Inspiration, education, and support for preschool teachers

“Participating in the community preschool PLC group has been an inspiring, educational, and supportive process. Seeing preschool teachers and directors from many diverse programs come together to support each other, on their own time, shows their dedication to the profession and passion for offering children high-quality preschool experiences. These ladies teach me something new each month and inspire me to do my job better. I hope we can grow and include more teachers and directors as the community preschool PLC group continues,” said Nelson.

Jeanna White
Jeanna White is a writer for the Mebane Charitable Foundation in Mocksville. Ten years as a substitute teacher for students from preschool through high school has given her a unique perspective and passion for education. White graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism.