Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians | Contributed
Teachers at the Soboba Tribal Preschool began learning about the youngsters in their classrooms when the new school year began on Aug. 3. But they seized the opportunity to learn even more when family members were invited to a back-to-school night on Aug. 25. Visitors toured the campus, listened to presentations about what to expect on a daily and weekly basis, checked out a Chromebook for their child’s use and were treated to pizza and snacks.
The school is a place where preschoolers and kindergartners can not only solidify foundational skills, but also learn how they can benefit from one another. They learn to value their native culture, family, friends and education and how they can contribute to a respectful, supportive and productive community. It is the first step to giving young children a lifelong love of learning.
Preschool teacher Lenora “Ponie” Mojado has a dozen three-year-olds who are at the onset of their school-based educational journey. As her students excitedly showed their family members where they sit and keep their items in a personalized cubby, Mojado shared how she wants parents to be engaged with the learning process. She encouraged them to support their children when they are at home by reading to them and helping them practice identifying shapes, colors, as well as counting to 10 and writing their own names to reinforce the lessons they will be learning at school.
Children have the option of eating breakfast at home and arriving for class by 8:30 a.m. or arriving at 8 and taking advantage of a hearty meal prepared in the school’s kitchen. Lunches and snacks are also prepared and served during the time students are on campus. Preschool and Pre-kindergarten students attend half day while kindergarten students are in class for a full day of instruction and lots of fun activities.
Much of what the children learned the previous year will be reviewed and reinforced in the Pre-K classroom with teacher Ana Garcia. During her presentation, she outlined the expectations she has for her students and how they will achieve them. The school has been successfully using the Benchmark curriculum and students who are returning at the next grade level are already familiar with the program and its numerous ancillary resources.
“Every day we are learning our ABCs, letter sounds, name writing, identifying numbers, shapes and colors,” Garcia shared. “We are developing our social skills, fine and gross motor skills and our language skills.”
She said that most of all students will be learning the pre-reading and pre-writing skills they will need when they reach kindergarten. An emphasis will also be placed on getting into a routine and staying focused. “The best way to learn is through all of our senses and I am providing a fun-enriched classroom based on age-appropriate curriculum so we can do just that. We are excited as we move forward into the new school year.”
Garcia requested parents complete a survey that included listing their child’s strengths and what motivates them. She reminded them that “your child’s first teacher starts at home” and therefore sharing concerns and goals will form an invaluable collaboration that will benefit each student to ensure a successful education and future.
Teacher Laura Aldrete, with the help of Instructional Aide Mayra Campos, has altered the kindergarten classroom from the past and offers individual desks for each student. Working together as a team, they have big goals for this school year as they get to know the 23 enrolled children better.
“Most of them are not new to the school but have to get used to being here for a full day, not just half a day,” Campos said. Having worked in the education field for more than seven years with children from six weeks through eighth grade, she said she enjoys the community-based aspect she has found at Soboba. She and Aldrete want to focus on families getting more involved with what goes on at the school, which will support the students outside the classroom as well.
Aldrete said she will continue to be committed to establishing strong parent-teacher communication and provided contact information for parents to reach her for any reason as did the other teachers.
“We’ve got a great group of kids this year,” said Aldrete, who began teaching last spring’s kindergartners. “Many of these students had Ms. Ana last year but we have a couple of newcomers that are adjusting well. Our focus this month is getting to know each other and learning about the classroom environment, rules, routines and expectations.”
Donovan Post, who had been serving as the preschool’s director until Sept. 1, said the concerted effort has always been to get all students in line with standards so they are ready for first grade. Whether they attend the school for three years or less, each class provides the instruction needed to reach that goal.
“We have a qualified caring staff that is ready to help our most precious students,” Post said. “The highlight to me as the director was seeing about 90% of our students’ families attend our back-to-school night. The support that they give to their children is amazing, and it starts them off on the right track with nothing but love and support.”
All teachers meet the State of California qualifications to teach in a preschool setting with each certified in First Aid and Infant, Child and Adult CPR, which is renewed every two years. Additionally, continued education is encouraged, and in-service trainings are offered throughout the year.
The preschool works closely with TANF youth programs to offer students hands-on child development experience. The preschool also participates in the Soboba Tribal Internship program which allows Tribal members to gain knowledge of the Child Development field while enrolled in college classes for Early Childhood Studies, which is where Mojado got her start before continuing her education at Mt. San Jacinto College where she earned her associate’s degree in the field.
Any person who wants to help teach in the classroom needs to have 12 early childhood development credits to apply. Any person who just wants to volunteer needs to complete a background with Soboba’s Human Resources department. For more information, www.soboba-nsn.gov/hr.
The current school year promises to include many special events that bring the community together to celebrate with the youngsters. October’s Trunk-or-Treat event lets the kids gather candy and other handouts from booths set up at the Sports Complex by team members from all of Soboba’s departments and entities. The decorations and themes are always well thought out and add to the spirit of the season.
The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Tribal Preschool, on the Soboba Indian Reservation, has been in operation since 2001. In December of 2014, it was relocated to a new building which is shared with other Soboba youth services. Within the 3,000 sq. ft. building, classrooms are equipped with quality programming, age-appropriate educational supplies and computer technology.
Providing a quality preschool educational program for Native American children, its curriculum is designed to enhance social, intellectual, physical and emotional growth. Its philosophy is to provide a learning environment where children may explore, question and create without the fear of failure or criticism from adults or peers.
Classrooms provide daily learning experiences in math, language, art, science, computer technology, social development and culture. Teachers provide experiences that will enable the children to learn about and appreciate their Native history and culture, to be proud of themselves, their ancestry, their language and their community. Luiseño language instruction is implemented on a daily basis through songs, fingerplay, stories and dance. The preschool’s tagline is “Té’iqat Čaamiamáayum Šhúlam” which translates to “Empowering our young minds.”
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