George Lucas Educational Foundation
George Lucas Educational Foundation

Growing Teens Into Teachers

Running a preschool inside a high school gives students the chance to try out a career in education—and it benefits the teens and tots alike.

April 12, 2024

The Career and Technical Education building at Fauquier High School includes classrooms dedicated to skills you might expect: woodworking, cooking, and car maintenance. But enter Nancy Nye’s room, and you’ll encounter students getting a very different kind of hands-on experience: running a fully functioning preschool.

Nye’s Early Childhood Education class allows high school students to gain firsthand experience with teaching preschoolers. The students design and lead lessons, redirect children who aren’t listening, and—perhaps the hardest lesson of all, according to Nye—learn to say “No.”

The high school students enrolled in Early Childhood Education have taken a prerequisite class, Child Development, with Nye. Many of them are interested in becoming teachers; others are exploring careers in physical therapy, nursing, or psychology. As Nye notes, “It’s nice for them to get experience now. You don’t really learn until you’re in the classroom and working with the kids.” Clara, an 11th grader who wants to be a teacher, says, “Seeing how the kids interact with each other, interact with their environment, it really helps me put into perspective what I’m going to be setting myself up for in the future, and it really gets me excited.”

The preschoolers are local 3- and 4-year-olds. Parents learn about the program by word of mouth, and they pay a below-market fee that helps cover the cost of materials. At drop-off, the high school students greet their students with hugs and high-fives, setting a positive tone for the school day.

During the first couple of weeks, Nye observes the interactions between the teens and tots and then pairs each high school student with two or three preschool students based on personalities. At the beginning of class, the high school students sit with their assigned preschool students, helping them with activities designed to develop their fine motor skills, like forming shapes and writing their names. Clara notes the ways she’s grown as a teacher and partner to “her” kids: “At the beginning of this year, I was not really sure how to interact with the kids, not really sure what’s the difference between hanging out with them and teaching them. I feel more confident now.”

The high school students also take turns being responsible for the week’s lesson plans. Each week has a designated letter, and one high school student chooses a book to read and a craft to make that connects with that letter. A week dedicated to “L” features a story about a ladybug flying home, and every child makes their own ladybug out of a paper plate. Clara values the chance to have real responsibility, while also having Nye’s support if she needs help: “She gives a lot of power to us to help the kids. But at the same time, she doesn’t let anything go past her.”

The preschool is closed on Fridays to give Nye and the high school students a chance to debrief and to plan for the following week. Students share examples of ways in which both they and their preschool students have grown—as well as ways they would like to improve.

Many of the high school students involved in the preschool go on to participate in Fauquier High School’s Teach for Tomorrow program. Participants intern at local elementary schools, shadowing a teacher at first and then leading their own lessons. At the end of the program, the school district sends each participant a letter with an exciting promise: Once the student finishes their undergraduate education, they will have a job waiting for them in Fauquier County Schools.

Nye notes how important it is to create this pipeline, citing a reality facing Fauquier County and districts around the country: “We need good teachers more than ever. So I just hope that I can guide them into that.”

Fauquier High School

Public, Suburban
Grades 9-12
Warrenton, VA

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Filed Under

  • Career & Technical Education
  • Administration & Leadership
  • Pre-K
  • 9-12 High School

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