Big Cards helping little Cards
Published 3:57 pm Monday, November 15, 2021
By Warren Taylor
With winter on its way, having a good pair of mittens as part of a winter ensemble is essential to keep warm.
Mittens are also an excellent way to learn how to count.
Last Tuesday, students at the Clark County Preschool were tasked with keeping track of how many pom-pom balls they could stuff into a mitten.
The lesson was part of the school’s use of a creative curriculum. The only departure from the norm was that it was designed and taught by local high school students.
“We have partnered with the [GRC] Leads group at George Rogers Clark High School, and in this partnership, they come over to our school once a month, and they teach lessons to our children,” the preschool’s special education facilitator, Jill Blanton said.
GRC Leads is a program designed to bring the school together.
“My students are in charge of taking tours, or if a new student comes in, they befriend them and sit with them at lunch, said Taylor Bonham, a faculty advisor for the program.
And thanks to one student, that philosophy is now shared district wide.
GRC senior Warren Harris pitched the idea of bringing the high school students into the preschool to mentor and lead educational activities once a month in 2019.
“I got the idea from a club called Key Club, which we used to have at GRC,” Harris said. “They used to come over and eat lunch with them [preschoolers] and that kind of thing.”
Harris thought the visits could incorporate more than lunch. He met with school administrators, who loved the idea, but unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic halted any plans.
When the current school year began, Harris decided to pitch the idea again.
“As soon as I got the chance this year, I knew we would be back in school, I reached out to Dr. Davies (the preschool principal), and they loved the idea as well,” he said.
Kara Davies said the preschoolers love having their older peers come to see them.
“Our students love it,” she said. “For our students, they can see the difference from a high school student and us adults.
It’s more exciting for them to work with the high school students because they feel closer and more connected.”
The preschoolers are not the only ones learning from the partnership either.
“The students at GRC are learning so much through this experience because not only is it developing their leadership skills interacting with and mentoring young children, it is helping them develop age-appropriate lessons,” Davies said.
The experience is perfect for students wanting to go into education because it challenges them to think about instructing a concept.
“The lessons that they create are awesome. I told them this morning that they did a great job,” Blanton said.
Bonham said that the joy her students feel in planning their lessons is evident.
“My kids love doing it. I think they have a lot of fun coming up with the ideas,” she said.
Davies praised how “thoughtful” and “prepared” the GRC students are are when they submit their lessons for approval.
Lesson planning has given Harris and his peers a glimpse of the preparation their teachers undertake every week.
“It’s very tedious,” Harris said about the process. “Before we presented our lessons to Ms. Blanton and Dr. Davies, I think there were about seven different drafts.”
And while the work may not always be glamorous, the big Cardinals are doing their best to prepare the little ones to eventually leave the Clark County nest.
The mittens used in the GRC student’s lessons were provided by a foundation with close ties to the preschool.
Nancy Metz was a beloved instructional assistant at the preschool for seven years. Tragically, she lost a two-year battle with cancer in 2019 but left lasting memories.
“She was like a second mom to me,” Blanton said. Metz assisted in Blanton’s classroom.
Davies said she only had the pleasure of meeting Metz once but that it was easy to tell the how high quality of a person she was.
“She was one of those people that when you meet them, they are just special from the beginning,” Davies said. “In the room, you could just feel her aura. She was a lovely, lovely person.”
Metz considered her classes a second family and would do things like give them McDonald’s gift cards so the students would have something to eat over holiday breaks.
Her daughter, Kamble, wanted to ensure that her second family was always taken care of.
The 16-year-old George Rogers Clark junior started a non-profit two years ago, Mrs. Nancy’s 2nd Family Foundation, to help the preschool with various needs.
“We’ve done gift cards at Thanksgiving to make sure the kids have food,” Kambel Metz said. “We’ve done hats and mittens and a picture with Santa last year for Christmas.”
Kambel Metz said that the foundation has previously fed the school staff for National Teacher Appreciation Day and provided 350 masks when students returned to school last fall.
Davies said that the preschool is appreciative of all the foundation does.
She also lauded how Kambel Metz took a personal tragedy and turned it into something beneficial for others.
“It’s a really powerful way to transition this really tragic piece of your life into something positive that will potentially impact hundreds and hundreds of students,” Davies said.