Husky Pups and seniors say fur-well to preschool program


Rachel Gileza, Dani Appel, Becca Moen, Jamie Erkobona, Julianna Barco and other student teachers pose with the Husky Pups at the preschool graduation. The ceromony was held on May 11th in the auditorium.


Husky Pups, the preschool program at Patterson Mill, recently said goodbye to graduating preschoolers and senior teachers. This past year in the program has been a great experience, making graduation more bittersweet.  

The Husky Pups preschool program is managed by Mrs. Russell, who is assisted by junior and seniors who took Learning About Children and Working with ChildrenThey plan stations relating to Science, Math, Art, Social Studies, English, Music, and STEM that the Pups rotate through on a typical day. Ms. Russell however, jokes that, “There is no such thing as a typical day!” The program is housed in Patterson Mill Middle/High School; the students and staff frequently use the building and its amenities in class. They visit the pond, trick-or-treat in high school classrooms, and hold their preschool graduation in the auditorium.    

The preschool program greatly benefits not only the Pups, but the upperclassmen who teach them as well. With so many dedicated teachers, the ratio between instructors and students is very high. There is “more love to give,” says Ms. Russell. The preschoolers adore the extra attention that is available in the unique classroom setting. Through working with toddlers before college, the upperclassmen gain an understanding of children that most do not receive until they are pursing higher education. Skills necessary to teaching such as time management, spontaneity, and communication are also developed. Their excitement and passion for teaching children shines as they work and plan lessons. Most plan to go into a field relating to pediatrics, children, or education, making the nine college credits available from the program very desirable. 

The preschoolers have grown a lot over the course of the school year. Several of the biggest achievements relate to confidence. “Some of the kids came in kicking, screaming, and hiding behind [their parents]. Now I have none doing that,” proudly states Ms. Russell. Dani Appel, a senior teacher agrees. She remembers how her case study child very nervous about entering the classroom, but now “just walks straight through the door. He doesn’t even turn around.” They learn to start friendships, practice manners, and behave in a school environment while constantly being supported and encouraged. Preschool is a very important time developmentally, and the teachers make sure the Pups are prepared for later education and life.    

Becca Moen, a senior teacher, helps a Husky Pup with painting. The seniors have a special connection with the preschoolers they teach.

The upperclassmen, Pups, and Ms. Russell have formed a special bond over the year. The seniors frequently reminisce about the amusing but memorable things the students have said and done during their time with them.. They joke about the time a Pup accidentally shouted during a silent fired drill and how another child pushed them into the school pond. While keeping up with the kids can be tiring, “seeing them makes school less stressful… They’re just so happy…it gives you energy,” says senior teacher Rachel Gileza. They’ll never forget the children they worked with, similar to how Ms. Russell will never forget the seniors. She’s had them for three years, resulting in them growing close and knowing each other very well. “This group will be especially missed,” she says. Of course, Ms. Russell cares greatly for the Pups as well. When she experienced a personal tragedy “the kids were [her] therapy.” She says that nothing helped her like “walking into a room with a bunch of three and four-year old’s screaming your name and giving you hugs.”  

Graduation is a celebration of all the hard work, improvement, and memories of the year. For the previous two years, the seniors observed the graduation preparation and festivities. This year, they helped plan and will participate. Not only will they be sending off the Pups, they will be graduating from high school soon after. The experience and connections they have made with each other and the Pups will be carried with them in college and beyond. It will be hard to say farewell, but the timeless, irreplaceable memories make it all worth it.