Cross-Campus Collaboration

Anna Vandermolen quietly slips into Mrs. Wiegers’ preschool classroom and, right on cue, is greeted by excited preschoolers.

“Hi, Miss Anna,” one says just slightly above a whisper (as not to disrupt the class), but waves excitedly.

“Hi,” Miss Anna gently answers. Then Anna gets right to work, organizing tables and books, all while smiling and getting random hugs from preschoolers.

Anna is a senior and from the time she was in sixth grade, she knew she wanted to be a preschool teacher. In fact, she plans to study early education at Concordia University (River Forest) in the fall. “I just really like working with little kids,” she says. “And being in the preschool classroom this year really just solidified that for me.”

Anna isn’t just a visitor to Mrs. Wiegers’ preschool classroom, she’s had a year-long internship that is a cross-collaboration between the high school and elementary school. “This has been a great fit,” Stacy Wiegers said, who has taught preschool at Timothy for two years. “The kids absolutely love her and the experience Anna is getting is invaluable.”

Anna’s year-long internship is just one of the many benefits of Timothy’s P-12th grade campus. Cross-collaboration between grades and buildings not only builds community, but also opens up countless opportunities for students. In Anna’s case, Lynn van Stee, the Director of Educational Support and School Psychologist, preschool teachers, principals, and Laura Van Kampen, a High School Educational Support teacher, developed an individually-customized internship that included three days in the classroom and online modules that Anna completed on days she wasn’t in the preschool classroom.

“I’m incredibly grateful to Mrs. Van Kampen for organizing my preschool internship,” Anna said. “She definitely went above and beyond in helping me work toward my future career goals. This has been my favorite part of high school.”

But, according to Lynn van Stee, both Anna and the preschoolers benefited from the internship. “We gave our preschool teacher another set of hands,” Lynn explained, “which in turn helps with differentiated learning.”

Differentiated learning means tailoring instruction to meet each child’s needs. At Timothy that means everyone is working on what they need next. Preschool at Timothy is play-based, and although it may appear to the untrained eye that the kids are simply playing, Mrs. Wiegers is intentional about every activity. Not only do students have the freedom for spontaneous play where they make discoveries, solve problems, and have positive social interaction, there are also self-directed activities and teacher-led lessons that teach children how to work in a group. Anna had a front row seat on how to successfully manage a preschool classroom. And, in turn, preschoolers have the advantage of three teachers (Mrs. Wiegers also has an aide) in the classroom giving more one-on-one time.

Differentiated learning means tailoring instruction to meet each child’s needs. At Timothy that means everyone is working on what they need next.

“There are expectations for preschoolers,” Anna explained. “They really do learn better through play. For example, around Valentine’s Day the teachers set up a pretend post office, which got them excited about practicing writing and also working together as a team to accomplish a task.”

In fact, the preschool class did a unit on rocks. The preschoolers collected rocks and did hands-on activities. Anna knew her high school Earth Science teachers,  Mr. Adamski and Mrs. Bemister, had an impressive rock collection, so she suggested organizing a field trip just across the parking lot to the high school science room. Not only did the preschoolers get to look at rocks under microscopes and meet high school teachers, but they got to see where Miss Anna goes to school (and imagine being a high school student at Timothy).

“This is the beauty of a P-12th grade campus,” Lynn van Stee said. “We’ve exposed our preschool students to rich resources, given our preschool teacher an extra set of hands, and built community.”

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