The excitement was palpable (along with the yawns) as teachers, both Prek and K, greeted each other. The scrumptious smell of bacon provided a significant help in waking up almost 200 attendees for the Breakfast with a Purpose, who were ready to learn and share at 8:00 am Saturday morning.
After a delicious breakfast sponsored by The Patterson Foundation, educators were ready to get to work. The Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County and the Manatee County School District actively sought out the participation of every attendee. Guest speakers included Rachel Spivey and Darrell King of the Early Learning Coalition; Dr. Sheila Halpin and Jennifer Harrison of the Manatee County School District; Kathy Patreka, Step Up Suncoast; and the illustrious Beth Duda, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Each speaker mesmerized the audience with the breadth of information they were sharing.
A brainchild of the Early Learning Taskforce, the three-hour workshop was held to encourage communication between the PreK providers and the kindergarten teachers to ensure a smooth transition to kindergarten. The task force reasoned that by creating an intentional space for both groups to share their challenges, opportunities, and ideas, improvements could be made. All agreed wholeheartedly that this event was critical to beginning the linked conversation between PreK and K teachers.
With a focus on the Gordon B. Hinckley quote, “You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation,” each attendee was invited to create an action plan considering what they could do and how they could be a part of bigger solutions. With so many ideas captured, the energy was electric. The program format was dynamic, with specific tips and tricks interspersed with team-building activities and ideas for future planning. The chatter was loud as the small groups began introductions and connections. Tables were intentionally seated to ensure PreK programs were at the same table as the local schools they feed into, building deeper connections.
Teachers were honest about the challenges they experienced, from isolation to the significant impacts of the pandemic on learning to the ‘fun’ of being coughed on daily. They were also passionate about the small changes that can be significant – changing the language taught in PreK (a rhombus, not a diamond), using clothespins to develop pinching skills necessary for writing and cutting, creating space for understanding the social skills needed to go into kindergarten, and understanding how changes occur with each year of school.
The wide variety of community resources available was also well received: community partners hosted a resource fair, the Ready CommUnity assets were shared via Soar in 4, and Beth caught rapt attention with the many programs of SCGLR, including Suncoast Remake Learning Days, THIS BOOK IS COOL!, and Kindergarten Readiness Bags. The car sunshades were also VERY popular. “Best swag EVER!” gushed one attendee.
Results of a recent Transition to Kindergarten Survey were discussed, as were crosswalk standards for the transition from PreK to K. Participants were invited to review, discuss, and improve a draft definition of Kindergarten Readiness. Shared expectations were discussed.
An Oprah moment occurred as the ELC shared the resources each attendee would receive due to their morning time, including classroom blocks, Pyramid Model kits with social learning books, and more. These tools will begin to build additional consistency across classrooms.
The excitement never waned throughout the morning. As the educators walked out of the event, new collaborations and connections had cemented. We are expectant about what’s next in the world of the successful transition to Kindergarten!