WARREN, NJ - At the last Warren Township Board of Education meeting, Mt. Horeb Principal Scott Cook delivered a thoughtful and detailed overview of the preschool program at Mt. Horeb School.
Cook shared the philosophy of the program. “We believe that all learners benefit from inclusive education and can grow and be successful when challenged and supported. We offer an integrated preschool program where our preschoolers are provided continuous opportunities to learn and develop through play, exploration, investigations, and intentional teaching.”
Currently, the preschool program is made up of 57 students from all over the district. The program is half-day with AM and PM sessions, five days a week. A lottery system is used for the selection of children except for those determined to have special needs.
Cook spoke passionately about the preschool staff. “We have eight super-human paraprofessionals each with a Marvel Comics-esque skill set for working with all types of children. Each one well versed in all methods to support our children and teachers. Endless wells of patience and a great knowledge of how best to encourage our littlest students!” The paraprofessionals include Mrs. Mary Russo, Mrs. Silvia Gebala, Mrs. Natalie Caterisano, Mrs. Shelly Stupay, Mrs. Leslie Mupo, Mrs. Lisa Pravato, Mrs. Maryanne DuBois, and Mrs. Kathlynn Kogler.
According to Cook the program also provides four certified teachers with over 70 plus years of combined experience in preschool as well as working with students of all abilities. The teachers, Mrs. Tara Keller, Ms. Linnea Middleton, Mrs. Deborah Yankowicz, and Mrs. Carol Keirstead assist all learners to grow and develop at their own pace, provide play, gross motor, small group, large group, and individualized instruction, a safe environment and make magic happen every day.
In addition to the paraprofessionals and teachers, the program also provides a total of 35 hours of related services per six-day cycle both inside and outside of the classroom. Mrs. Nicole Runfola, speech therapist, works solely with the preschool program while Mrs. Michelle Barbagallo, occupational therapist, shares her time between Mt. Horeb and Central School.
According to Cook, the students are the reason the program is so special and successful. “They arrive each day eager and prepared to learn.” The fully inclusive program includes 40% of students with an individualized education plan and 60% general education.
The Creative Curriculum, a state-approved, comprehensive, research-based curriculum promotes exploration and discovery as a way of learning, enabling children to develop confidence, creativity, and lifelong critical thinking skills. This program complements the Whole Child Approach which ensures that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.
Cook also highlighted the Special Education Committee, a teacher-driven group that was co-created by Yankowitz and Runfola, made up of 17 dedicated members. The committee is on a mission to help both staff and students celebrate the differences in themselves as well as those around them. Throughout the 2019-2020 school year the committee will provide professional development on four specific topics; Dyslexia, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and Autism.
Before the conclusion of his presentation, Cook played a short clip of a powerful video that was created by Mt. Horeb Staff titled “It happened to Me.” The video highlighted teachers and staff members from Mt. Horeb School, holding a two-sided poster board with a personal handwritten message on each side. One side of the board described a challenge or obstacle that the staff member endured during their childhood. The flip side of the board described how that individual overcame the challenge and achieved their own level of success. To view the preschool presentation and video please visit the district website. https://www.warrentboe.org/board/videos/
An application for the Warren Township Preschool program can be found by visiting the district website or by contacting Annette Glorius at (908) 753 - 5300 Ext - 5704.
Photos courtesy of Warren Township Schools:
1. The outstanding preschool paraprofessionals include Mrs. Mary Russo, Mrs. Silvia Gebala, Mrs. Natalie Caterisano, Mrs. Shelly Stupay, Mrs. Leslie Mupo, Mrs. Lisa Pravato, Mrs. Maryanne DuBois, and Mrs. Kathlynn Kogler.