Preschool students learn lessons quickly from dedicated teacher

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 20, 2005

The 4-year-olds have been with Ira Smith Young for one semester at Holy Family Catholic School.

Here are a few of the lessons they proudly and loudly show they have learned:

Who made the first American flag and how many stripes and stars the flag contains.

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The Pledge of Allegiance.

The Lord’s Prayer.

The definition of a sentence.

The names of the seasons, days of the week, oceans and continents.

Letters, numbers, words and how to add numbers.

And much more.

They sat cross-legged on the classroom floor on a recent winter day, all eyes on the teacher.

&uot;What are the rules,&uot; she asked.

They recited as she gave them the number.

Number One, she said.

&uot;Listen when others are talking,&uot; they said in unison.

Number Two.

&uot;Follow directions.&uot;

Number Three.

&uot;Hands, feet and objects to ourselves.&uot;

Number Four.

&uot;Work quietly and don’t disturb others.&uot;

Number Five.

&uot;Show respect for school and others’ property.&uot;

Number Six.

&uot;Work and play in a safe manner.&uot;

The 28 years she has spent with preschoolers at Holy Family are evident in Young’s demeanor and instruction.

With flash cards, a small chalk board, a globe and her own vibrant expression and rhythm as props, she began what became a lesson in letters, phonics, numbers, words, spelling, geography, safety and rhyme.

At a fast pace, she held up letter cards. What’s this? How does it sound? The children responded heartily.

&uot;I have so much fun at school,&uot; one eager student said, smiling at his teacher.

&uot;I love you, Mrs. Young,&uot; another child said.

&uot;Good morning to you,&uot; Young said, going around the circle to shake hands with each child. &uot;Now, can you find your right hand and put it over your heart?&uot;

The children, now standing in a circle, demonstrated. &uot;Wonderful. Good. You’ve got it,&uot; she said.

&uot;Try again,&uot; she said to another, who quickly switched from left to right. They recited the Pledge of Allegiance perfectly.

Young said she has &uot;an innate instinct for nurturing, the desire to assist in developing young minds and a desire to accept the challenge to not only make a number but make a difference.&uot;

The instinct comes naturally, as she is from a family filled with educators, including her father, the well-known, longtime Natchez public schools educator Henry L. Smith, and her mother, also a teacher, Thelma W. Smith.

Holy Family Principal Rosa Demby said Young is a motivator. &uot;She inspires those children. She’s a top teacher,&uot; Demby said. &uot;When you want something done, you know you can call on her and it will be done and done right.&uot;

A few parents have questioned the level of some of the work in Young’s class, Demby said. &uot;But Ira and I agree, when they are ready, you move the children on. And those children are really, really ready for kindergarten when they leave her class.&uot;

Galaundra Myles, whose son, Jeremy, now 7, was in Young’s preschool class, said she was impressed with what her child learned as a 4-year-old.

&uot;Mrs. Young is a superb teacher. I was thoroughly pleased that he was so well prepared,&uot; Myles said.

Young’s goal is to build a foundation for the children and &uot;a bridge to connect the gaps in education.&uot;

&uot;At Holy Family School Š we educate the whole child, support them in developing them spiritually, intellectually, aesthetically, emotionally, socially and physically,&uot; she said. &uot;Also at Holy Family School we provide a positive environment that is conducive to learning.&uot;

The theme for 2004-2005 at the school is &uot;Academics plus Attendance plus Achievement plus Attitude equals Aptitude and Success,&uot; she said. &uot;We constantly emphasize to our students that attitude determines aptitude and at Holy Family School, no child will be left behind.&uot;

The children responded to Young’s building-block style of teaching.

&uot;How do you know it’s a 9,&uot; she said during the numbers study. &uot;The circle’s at the top,&uot; the children responded. She repeated the question. They repeated the answer.

&uot;How do you call a fireman?&uot; she said. &uot;911,&uot; they answered.

&uot;What is this number,&uot; she asked.

&uot;It’s a 4,&uot; the children said.

&uot;How many seasons do we have?&uot;

&uot;Four,&uot; they answered.

She called for the names, and they called out, &uot;Fall, winter, spring and summer.&uot;

She held up number 2. They identified it. &uot;How many days do we stay home?&uot; They answered, &uot;Two.&uot;

They identified the number 5. &uot;How many days do we come to school?&uot; she asked. &uot;Five,&uot; they shouted. Then they named the days of the week.

She pulled the world globe into the circle and had the children identify what was at top, the North Pole, and at the bottom, the South Pole. They named the oceans and the continents.

Using the chalk board, Young began to put two numbers together. &uot;What do we make with a 1 and a 0,&uot; she asked &uot;What about a 1 and an 8?&uot;

Young studied at Alcorn State University, where she received B.S. and M.S. degrees. She is both a teacher and the director of the pre-school program at Holy Family and is an adjunct faculty member at Alcorn in the departments of education and psychology.

For all the energy and work she puts into the classroom, she said at Holy Family, as at all schools, parental involvement is essential for success.

Parents help to motivate their children, she said. And they are important to the school family. &uot;Not only are they parents but stakeholders of the school and a part of our family at Holy Family School.&uot;

Demby agreed. And Young is an example of how a teacher can make a difference. &uot;She works well with me and with the faculty and staff, and she works well with the parents,&uot; Demby said.