Skamania School’s brand-new Transitional Kindergarten (TK) Program is already changing lives. In mid-February of this year, a four-year-old student expressed to his teacher how hard he felt school was. He didn’t know the letters in his name or how to write his name. The little boy’s TK teacher helped him with some basic skills and just a few months later, the child understands letters and can write his own name all by himself. “His whole face lit up,” said his teacher, Emily Hopple.

“You could see how proud he was of this accomplishment. After only about a month in school we were already seeing a huge impact on his learning and confidence.”

The Transitional Kindergarten program at Skamania School is a brand-new program this year for students who will be four years old by August 31. TK is designed to give young students positive exposure to the school environment, extra support, a social outlet and a strong foundation so they are confident when they begin kindergarten the next fall.

Families in rural communities, like Skamania, have fewer options for young learners to socialize and begin their education in traditional preschool programs without traveling to other cities such as Carson or Washougal. The new TK program means Skamania can offer local families a kindergarten readiness program right in their own backyard.

Class began for these students on January 6, in a mixed-age classroom with kindergarten and first grade students. Eighteen students total, six for each grade level, experienced lessons together as well as small group instruction and individual skill level work with their teacher, Mrs. Hopple, and their full-time Reading Corps tutor-assistant Jade Locke. Students joined the family atmosphere of Skamania School and quickly learned not only academic skills, but social skills, coping skills, care and respect for others and stamina. A week of full-day learning is tough for everyone, but especially new learners like these four and five-year-olds!

With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic just ten weeks later, these young students transitioned to online learning from their homes just like other students around the world. They learned (with their parents’ assistance) how to use technology or to read instructions on their worksheets so they could complete assignments. They even learned to read a clock so they could log in to their online class meetings on time.

Mrs. Hopple says that nothing compares to being in a classroom with her students, but she appreciates the technology available to make online learning possible. “I had a little guy who arranged different pictures in order to tell a story, then recorded a video telling the story to me. During the video, he was able to correct himself when he noticed a picture out of place. It is something I would also notice if we were sitting next to each other in the classroom, and with this program I can give him that feedback much faster than in the paper packets delivered each week to students,” Mrs. Hopple shared.

This coming school year, the TK program will begin in the fall just like all other grades, and run the entire school year. The 2020-21 school year will feature a TK and kindergarten classroom, with an increased focus on playing to learn, a key component of learning for such young students. Students who began the TK program this year will return as kindergartners and have the chance to be peer mentors and friends to a new group of transitional kindergarten students who are ready to learn and grow.

Mrs. Hopple, loves the new program and is excited that it is available to families.

“It’s very rewarding. I am so proud of the respect the students learned to show each other. That is a true kindergarten readiness indicator! I know they will come back in the fall as confident kindergarteners, ready to take on bigger and better projects. I can’t wait to see them!”