Learn why our local district’s kindergarten program shines for its little learners

It’s hard to believe, but the time has arrived to register for kindergarten for the 2021-2022 school year. Luckily for local families, Deer Valley Unified School District (DVUSD) offers a free full-day kindergarten program at all of their K-6 and K-8 schools.

“DVUSD kindergarten classrooms are filled with caring, kind-hearted, and genuine certified teachers,” says Mirage Elementary kindergarten teacher Stephanie Salcido. “Teachers respect every student and provide a safe and caring space, embracing each uniqueness and the strengths that we all have as individuals.”

“It takes a special person to be able to teach kindergarten, and the teachers in DVUSD are skilled in the art and science of teaching this very special group of students,” says Diamond Canyon kindergarten teacher Jennie Francom.

DVUSD kindergarten teachers truly love what they do. Sheila Fields, Canyon Springs STEM Academy teacher, says, “One of my favorite parts of being a kindergarten teacher is greeting those little, sweet smiling faces each morning and their excitement; showing you the tooth they lost, the new pair of shoes they got, or their new haircut.“

These teachers are not only nurturing; they are fully certified in early childhood education. “That includes reading, math, science, social studies and writing for young children. We know teaching is a constant work in progress. Parents can rest assured their kindergartner will receive the rigorous, highest standards of teaching anywhere,” says Lisa Hoelzen, a kindergarten teacher at Copper Creek Elementary. “At the same time, we mindfully consider the developmental stage of each child. We create learning environments that are exciting, hands-on, and engaging.”

“We know that each student is their own individual, with their own learning needs,” says Angelina Bautista, Deer Valley Online Academy kindergarten teacher. “We adjust our instruction based on what each child needs. I am giving each one of my students the skills necessary to get them to the next level of learning.”

In Deer Valley, 92% of K-6 and K-8 schools are rated an A or B by the Arizona Department of Education. Teachers have helped their schools achieve these high ratings by nurturing the whole child.

“DVUSD kindergarten teachers are passionate about helping our students succeed to their full potential. We know that academic growth is much slower if a child’s other needs are not being met,” says Francom.

“I love the growth and independence you see during the kindergarten year. My heart fills, watching the children’s eyes light up as they learn,” says Fields.
DVUSD teachers are constantly learning as well, acquiring the latest strategies to set their students up for success. “We are given opportunities to develop our expertise. When I worked outside of the district, these professional growth resources were not available, and I feel like I am a better teacher because I have been able to participate in them,” says Francom.

Parents sending students off to kindergarten for the first time often wonder what a day will be like for their little ones. “A full six and a half hour day in the life of a kindergartner looks, sounds, and feels exciting, motivating, and engaging,” says Hoelzen.

Salcido added, “A day in kindergarten is filled with love, compassion, empathy, understanding, and curiosity. There is a constant willingness to explore, overcome, and learn about the world around us.”

All of this learning has teachers, parents and kindergartners seeing great results. “With the use of data notebooks and standards based reporting, kindergarten has been able to do a phenomenal job tracking student progress, while creating meaningful goals with celebrations,” says Fields.

To support learning, across Deer Valley schools, classrooms are packed with technology, including iPads for every student, smartboards, document cameras, Apple TVs, 3D printers, and more.

Another way in which the DVUSD kindergarten program is unique is in providing special classes (art, music or PE) every day for kindergarten students.

“We have a full-day academic program that promotes social and emotional growth for all our learners in a safe and comfortable environment. All classes have a certified teacher and we offer special area classes such as music, art, and P.E.,” said Bautista.

This offering gives students the greatest opportunity to enhance overall learning, growth, creativity, and physical development. Several studies have shown that these types of classes increase achievement in literacy and math as well.

“DVUSD supports the research showing that recess improves students’ classroom performance, creative thinking, and social emotional skills. Each campus is designed with beautiful playgrounds for climbing, sliding, hanging, and swinging. There are grassy areas to run and play,” says Fields.
“Being a kindergarten teacher means that we are given the opportunity to make school a fun, safe, and inviting place,” says Salcido.

Tracy Malone, kindergarten teacher at Highland Lakes School added, “I have had the pleasure of being a kindergarten teacher at four different schools in our district, and what resonates with me is that the common theme is, ‘We will always do what is best for kids.’ Your child deserves the best.”

If your child is old enough to begin kindergarten next school year, you can join Virtual and Drive-Thru Kindergarten events, including the Preview Night on Thursday, February 4 from 5 – 6:30 p.m. for all DVUSD K-6 and K-8 schools. Parents will learn how to enroll a child in kindergarten, meet kindergarten teachers, hear about DVUSD’s #Extraordinary Kindergarten program, and more! If you miss the Feb. 4 event, multiple events are held throughout the spring. For details, visit dvusd.org/kindergarten.http://dvusd.org/kindergarten