Playing to learn: Preschool teacher strives to be positive influence

For Brooklyn Pennington, teaching preschool is about being a positive influence in the formative years in a young child’s life.

Pennington, who has been teaching head start at the Generations Center branch of the Clark County Preschool for the past five months following her graduation from Eastern Kentucky University, said that it’s important to make students’ first experience with school be a good one.

“At this age you have to play to learn,” she said. “You have to be able to explore your environment.”

To help accommodate this type of learning, Pennington’s classroom contains several stations designed for different types of play.

“They can pretend they’re cooking in a restaurant,” Pennington said. “They have menus they can go by and they can make something to eat. Or they can pretend they’re cleaning the house or feeding the baby, different things they can connect to real life.”

Pennington and the other preschool teachers observe the students at play and look for ways to facilitate learning new things.

“If we hear them talking about something we try to get them to elaborate on it,” she said. “We don’t want to interrupt the play, but if we catch a time where we can jump in we do.”

Pennington said her class also participates in some teacher-driven activities, like reading to the entire class and small group activities.

The idea is to create a structure for the children that they can get used to, which can be used to facilitate learning.

Pennington said that in her first months as a professional teacher she’s learned a lot from teaching her class.

“You continue to learn throughout your career,” Pennington said. “I have learned a hundred percent that patience is key. You have to have patience when you work with this age group. As a preschool teacher you have to be able to go with the flow.”

Pennington said that there are a lot of misconceptions about preschool, with it sometimes being equated to working as a babysitter. She said that, while she does spend a lot of time playing with the children in her class, the job entails much more than just that.

“They’re learning through that play,” she said. “The first five years of a child’s life are crucial to their outlook on school. You can make it or break it for a kid in preschool.”

She said she likes working with preschool-aged children because she wants to instill in them a love of learning.

When she isn’t teaching, Pennington said she enjoys spending time with her friends and family and with her dog, Lucy. She is currently certified to teach preschool and kindergarten, but said she is planning to get her master’s degree in elementary education as well.