THS early childhood program offers career possibilities
A new program at Thomasville High School is putting students back in classrooms of a different sort.
THS started a new early childhood development class this year, combining classroom learning with hands-on experiences at local schools. The 16 young women enrolled in the program find there is a lot more to early childhood development than simply learning the ABCs.
"It can be draining because you can have a really good day or a really bad day," said Xiomara Irizarry, a THS junior. "As much as sometimes you may want to scream and pull your hair out, you have to be calm and understand they're just children. Not anyone can just go in the classroom and handle it."
The program is designed to show students the basic principles of being a teacher for preschool children. In the classroom, students learn to develop lesson plans, create observations and study the history and different theories related to child development. One of the program's goals is to expose students to the field of early childhood development and provide a possible career avenue following graduation.
"I have girls who may not necessarily want to be teachers but they want to do something that deals in early childhood," said Catrese Parks, a CTE instructor at THS. "Some may want to be a child psychologist or a pediatric nurse. The careers vary but they all resort back to knowing early childhood and its development and stages."
Internships are a key component to the program. Students spend more than 100 hours working directly with children at Thomasville Primary School, Thomasville Head Start and Davidson County Community College. Students document what they've learned in portfolios and are given the opportunity to apply their studies to the classroom.
Senior Tahlia Hughes wants to major in early childhood development and child social work in college. She spends Fridays at Thomasville Primary School working with 4-year-olds, teaching them manners, colors and how to write their names.
For her, the experience is invaluable.
"They put a smile on my face every day I walk in the door," Hughes said. "I love working with children. Working with preschoolers gives me the hands-on opportunity to know what it would be like being a preschool teacher."
While Ka'Liah Dalton hopes to be a banker one day, exploration of another career has been rewarding.
"When I heard about it, I thought it would be a fun activity watching the kids and seeing how they develop," said Dalton. "I just wanted to participate with the kids."
As the sister of two younger brothers, Irizarry, who does her internships in the child development lab at DCCC, came into the program with a little more experience than her counterparts, but even she has learned that raising children is a tall task.
"I love being around kids," Irizarry said. "They respond really well to me. It's very important because we get to notice developmental problems they're having. We can see the milestones with our own eyes. Instead of reading about it, you get to see it."
Even though the program is made up entirely of girls, Parks said it is open to young men as well. Next year, Parks hopes to expand the program by adding more sites where students can do their internship. She also would like to put students at sites that tie more directly into a specific field of choice.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.