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11:24 AM Thu, Sept. 20th

Quality First helps improve learning for preschoolers

Piper Pauletto, preschooler at Sacred Heart Catholic Preschool. (Geoff Meza/Courtesy)

Piper Pauletto, preschooler at Sacred Heart Catholic Preschool. (Geoff Meza/Courtesy)

Local Prescott community leaders toured Sacred Heart Catholic Preschool, hosted by school officials and First Things First, recently to observe what a quality-learning environment for young children looks like.

The preschool participates in FTF’s signature program Quality First, which partners with childcare and preschool providers to improve the quality of early learning across Arizona.

The FTF program offers research-proven improvements such as teacher training to expand skills and help create learning environments that nurture the emotional, social and academic development. It includes an education rich in language development, cognitive skills, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum.

SHC Preschool Director Jan Richards said the program includes a multitude of hands-on materials with which to explore and manipulate. “Our goal is to educate the whole child; and to do it effectively takes a village,” she said.

Highly educated and experienced early childhood teachers, a challenging preschool curriculum, and smaller adult-to-child ratios in a classroom can make a big difference, said FTF Yavapai Regional Director Lisa Blyth.

“We want all children to arrive kindergarten ready to learn and succeed,” Blyth said.

Four-year-old Xavier, a student at the preschool, has improved his communication skills since enrolling this past October.

“Several months ago, Xavier was struggling,” his mother, Elizabeth Torres said. “He was significantly behind in his social skills, and had extreme difficultly following spoken directions. His enrollment here had a large impact on him and our entire family.”

Prescott Community Outreach Manager John Heiney, a former board member for the Child Care Council of Oakland County, California, said, “Quality early childhood education is a vital component to our society. Quality starts with a core set of values, and translates to curriculum, programming and staff who reflect those values every day.”

Thirty-seven childcare centers and preschools participate in the Quality First program in the Yavapai region, which includes Yavapai County and Sedona.