Jennilee Dunlap’s class at Catlin Elementary is one of five preschool classes in the district, and is the only medically fragile developmental preschool class. Some students in the class have high medical needs, some have disabilities that require one-to-one support, and some have challenges socially or emotionally; all her students receive specially designed instruction.
“The students in my class are all at different skill levels,” Dunlap said. “Some students come in knowing how to identify their name in print, some kids can already identify letters, and others cannot point to pictures or turn pages in a book. I started the year teaching all of these things.”
Given specific and consistent support for academic development as well as social and emotional skills, the children in Dunlap’s class make great strides.
“I have seen all levels of improvement in my students. One student was unable to communicate without mimicking single words (i.e., hi, more, moo, etc.). She is now able to independently use words, combine some words (i.e. go play, cracker please, etc.), and she is able to get her needs met when she does this,” shared Dunlap. Another student has made so much progress that she was able to drop two areas of special education services.
If you ask Dunlap about the importance of early learning programs, she’ll tell you they’re life-changing.
“I have personally and professionally seen the difference an early learning program can make for a child. It can make the greatest difference, especially for students who have borderline or low skills in adaptive, social/emotional, cognitive, communication, fine motor, or gross motor areas. Some students have entered our program with very limited skills, but have made such good progress they are able to be in general education kindergarten classes.”
Dunlap believes if we had more programs available for more students (with and without special education services) in our community, more kids could start kindergarten with the pre-academic knowledge, the behavior management practice, and the social skills to participate and succeed.
“We have an amazing opportunity to grow our early learning programs to meet the needs of the kids in our community. I am excited to see how Kelso will work together to support our youngest students in the future.”