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Cherry Creek Schools launches “grow your own” preschool teacher program

New early childhood instuctorsColorado’s tight labor market has made it difficult for businesses and school districts alike to find qualified candidates for many important positions. In the Cherry Creek School District, that includes openings for preschool teachers.

“We don’t have the workforce right now,” said Crystal Gwin, CCSD’s Early Childhood Education program coordinator.

Currently, CCSD offers high-quality, affordable preschool at 24 locations across the district’s 108 square miles. But that number will nearly double when Universal Preschool begins in Colorado in August 2023. By then, the Cherry Creek School District will need almost twice as many preschool teachers – officially called early childhood instructors – as it has now. That’s why the district has started a “grow your own” program giving preschool paraeducators the opportunity to take the state-required courses to become early childhood instructors.

“We’re choosing to take the folks who already know the Cherry Creek system and are familiar and comfortable in the Cherry Creek way,” Gwin explained. “That way, when we move into Universal Preschool, it’s a far easier transition.”

During the month of June, 12 CCSD preschool paraeducators did three-and-a-half weeks of intensive, in-person, classroom training. They took Early Childhood 101 with an instructor from Arapahoe Community College, and Early Childhood 103 / Pyramid Plus Approach, with a CCSD instructor.

“In both classes, they not only learn the history and the foundation skills for early childhood, they also learn communication skills, they learn preparatory skills such as lesson planning and classroom management,” Gwin said.

The Pyramid Plus Approach (PPA) is a set of evidence-based practices that promote young children's healthy social-emotional development, practices that support inclusion and strategies to deal with challenging behavior.

“The training goes through the foundations of what children need in the classroom to be safe and to feel comfortable learning,” Gwin added.

Congratulations to Charlotte Cordova, Shannon Erickson, Kim DeSloover, Crystal Akau, Suzanna Ramos, Layla Ahmed, Farah Alsaadi, Nyree Roles, Amanie Touban, Delaney Thomas, Joanna Yang, Nicole Rodriguez and Judi Hancock. They are living the Cherry Creek Schools core value of Growth Mindset: developing our abilities through hard work and dedication to continuous improvement.

This fall the district will train another 80 to 100 paraeducators, so that when Universal Preschool begins in August 2023 at 45 sites across the district there will be enough trained and dedicated staff to give new preschoolers the strong start they deserve.

“We are an exceptional preschool program,” said Stacey Peoples, director of Early Childhood Education for Cherry Creek Schools. “Our program features an extremely low staff-to-student ratio and a comprehensive, scientifically based, early-childhood curriculum. We help youngsters develop the academic and social skills they need for kindergarten and beyond.”

Get more information about preschool in the Cherry Creek School District here.

Posted 6/30/2022.