Grand Island Public Schools
123 South Webb Road
Grand Island, NE 68802
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Preschool equips students with social, emotional, academic skills

Grand Island Public Schools places a high value on early learning. The preschool program, housed at the Early Learning Center and Lincoln Elementary, serves nearly 400 students.

Three and four-year-olds began their first day of preschool on Aug. 22, ready to build important life skills.

Parents dropped off their children, some for the very first time. Though the preschool runs for three hours, it was still tough for most children and parents. The transition of going to preschool or bringing your child to preschool isn’t always easy, but the ELC staff was full of helpful smiles. Halls that may have been filled with kids with nervous jitters turned into calm classrooms.

First day of preschool

Preschoolers were attentive to their teachers, as they had a full few hours ahead of them. Students learned manners while they ate breakfast and learned how to safely use the playground equipment. Preschoolers did classroom activities with friends, such as coloring a crown they’d later wear home. Others sang counting songs such as “Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed.”

Tara Peterson, Early Learning Coordinator, said the day has two sessions of students: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The sessions are usually three hours long, except for Wednesdays when GIPS releases early. On early release days, preschool sessions are two hours long.

Peterson said preschool is very important for GIPS to have, especially because preschool teaches kids the rules and routines of being in school before they attend Kindergarten.

“Some of the things you don’t think about with Kindergarten entry is waiting in line, taking turns and sharing your toys,” Peterson said. “Those are the social and emotional skills we can really work on here in the preschool so kids are familiar with a school and a routine.”

First day of preschool

Lincoln Elementary preschool serves 60 kids, while the ELC serves 330.

Preschool teacher Libbie Puncochar has been with GIPS for 11 years. She has taught for 24 years, 20 of those years being in early childhood. Previously, she taught in Western Nebraska. This year, Puncochar has mostly three-year-olds who are attending preschool for the first time.

“Today they did absolutely great,” Puncochar said.

She said the preschool covers lots of different skill areas. The younger kids focus more on the social and emotional skills, such as learning how to share and communicate. Other skills the preschool teaches are fine motor skills (like grasping a pencil), gross motor skills (such as running or jumping) and hand washing. Students also learn cognitive and preacademic skills, such as how to be curious and how to rhyme, as well as basic math and reading skills.

Puncochar said the activities in the preschool are very hands-on and active. She said teachers try to get the kids outside and involved with nature as much as possible. She also uses a lot of music in her classroom.

The best thing about teaching preschoolers is seeing the students grow and change during an important time in their life.

First day of preschools

“The first five years are so important as far as gaining language and skills in all areas of development,” Puncochar said.

“Every year I learn something new from them, new strategies to put in my toolbox,” Puncochar said. “I learn just as much as they do.”

Peterson agreed with Puncochar on the amount of growth they see in the preschool from the many skills they teach. Whether it be going from not knowing how to take turns talking in class to knowing how to raise their hand, the preschoolers learn important skills.

“We see a tremendous growth,” Peterson said. “We just really see these kids blossom.”

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