When was the last time you wished you were 5 again? For parents and any adult caregiver of a kindergarten-age child in the Catalina Foothills School District, it’s probably today: November 1 is Day One to register for the coming academic year, and the choice of activities these youngsters can look forward to would make any one of us wish we could go, too!
Kelly Prevenas’ son Andrew, 8, and daughter Lucy, 5, attend Manzanita Elementary School as third-grader and kindergartner, respectively.
That first week saying goodbye at drop-off, Prevenas said that with a quick wave to mom, Lucy was heading off to the building on her own. “No, no, ‘I said to her, you still need to give me a hug!’” she recalled with a chuckle, noting that the important takeaway was that Lucy already felt safe and confident in that environment. “Makes me feel good to know that they’re there and they are loving it, and they are also feeling loved,” Prevenas added.
Mrs. Baker, Lucy’s teacher, is “the ideal kindergarten teacher,” Prevenas said. “She sent home an invitation that her students can fill out if they want to invite her to a sports event or a recital, and she will make every effort to come.” Lucy, who has a dance recital in December, “really lit up” about being able to invite Mrs. Baker. “She cares about her students inside and outside of school, and she is making these personal connections with the kids.”
Jill Greene, whose son Wyatt, 8, is a third-grader at Sunrise Drive Elementary School, is the president of the school’s Family Faculty Organization and an enthusiastic cheerleader of the district, the schools, and the teachers.
Wyatt’s kindergarten experience started during Covid, Greene said, and as a former educator, she said it was a heartbreaking time because everything was done on a screen. “I used to teach. I don’t know how these teachers kept it together with 20 kids on a screen. But they nailed it!” She said that when it was time to return to the classroom, the teachers decorated and were ready for the children when they came back.
Greene describes kindergarten teachers as “amazing,” and others as having “incredible classroom management skills,” and others as so dedicated, that they stay after school and help build mazes and structures on campus for special events. They even had their kindergartners work with glitter and pinned it up the resulting sparkling art for students and parents to enjoy. “It felt like I was in Disneyland!” Greene said.
Marisol Bejarano, a Spanish Immersion kindergarten teacher at Ventana Vista Elementary School, said that, “The most satisfying part of the job is knowing that the work I do, and the work that all educators do, truly makes a difference. Living in Arizona, our neighbor country is Mexico. Having a foundation in a second language is always an asset, much more so when immersed in an environment that possesses a high Spanish speaking community.”
Bejarano, who has taught at the school for three years, said that teaching kindergarten is important for her because the classroom environment is brand new to many of the students. “With that, I have the opportunity to not only help them grow a love of learning right from the start, but also to help them feel safe and comfortable taking risks.
“Our classroom motto is that we don’t have to do things perfectly, but we do have to try our very best in all that we do; something I hope they are able to apply outside of the classroom,” Bejarano said.
Not only are the daily activities top rate, but the trust, safety and care parents with children in the CFSD kindergarten programs describe are nothing short of icing on an already delicious and nutritious cake. Several common threads include the closeness these families feel toward the teachers, and vice versa.