Department Feature: Mahaffey Elementary Pre-K Team
In this feature, we sat down with Mahaffey Pre-K teachers Laura Cotton, Liz Ali, Bethany Cowan, and Josie Scherrman to discuss their role in serving Mahaffey’s students, staff, and families.
Read on to get acquainted with the outstanding Mahaffey Elementary Pre-K team and how this group of remarkable educators positively impact their students and equip them for their academic journey.
“The Mahaffey Elementary Early Childhood team leads the district in Pre-K expectations,” said Holly Mason, Mahaffey Elementary Principal. “Because these educators are so detailed and passionate about early childhood learning, their feedback and experience is taken and used district-wide. I could not be more proud of them.”
Huge shout out to the Mahaffey Pre-K Team for all you do for our district and the students of Mahaffey Elementary. We are grateful for your service and care for the experience of EVERY student.
Can you elaborate on the importance of Early Childhood Education and how it benefits our students?
Josie: “Our Pre-K students come to us with so many different needs. By coming to us and being in a Pre-K academic setting, we are able to help them build their vocabulary. This sets them up for success as they enter Kindergarten and First Grade.”
Bethany: “We also teach them how to deal with feelings, things like – how do you deal with disappointment, with being happy, and what does that look like for you as a person? We focus on helping our students make sure their behaviors are appropriate for school and home.”
What are some of the challenges you face as individuals and as a department?
Laura: “We’re challenged with focusing on our individual learners and their transition into Kindergarten from Pre-K. We work on gathering feedback and adjusting what needs to be done so we can help our students be better prepared for their education beyond Pre-K.”
Liz: “Full-day Pre-K is a challenge for the students too. They’re definitely tired at the end of the day. All the academic curriculum is in the morning and after the afternoon nap, students can explore and play with STEAM activities. They are still engaged in learning, but it is all play-based.”
What makes your job so rewarding for you? What is your favorite part of teaching Early Childhood?
Bethany: “I love seeing students become more independent. My daughter started Pre-K here at Mahaffey last year, and now, when she comes home, she does everything on her own. I love seeing my students show that same growth. Students who never have been to daycare or Pre-K are used to mom or dad doing everything for them, but now they realize they can do those same things on their own. I love seeing them realize they can do it.”
Laura: “Students are so honest at four. They are absolutely who they are. That is my favorite thing about four-year-olds. You’re going to get the truth and how they really feel, and I think that is such an amazing place to start a learning journey. Mostly what I love about teaching Pre-K is that I get to be directly involved at the beginning of my student’s educational journey and help set the tone for the rest of their time in Klein ISD and beyond.”
What makes the Mahaffey Early Childhood department stand apart from the rest?
Liz: “We know each other’s personalities and don’t hold it against each other when someone’s having a bad day. We offer support and help not only here at school but outside of school. We have some pretty strong friendships. It’s really great when you get to work with some of your best friends who all love kids and want them to be happy and successful.”
Josie: “I think it’s because we let the children lead the learning. When we plan anything, it’s all learner-centered. If it’s not working for students, we immediately pivot and look for something new. I’m just happy Mahaffey is a family. It’s always been that way. It’s easy to work in a place where everyone around you is giving 100 percent.”
How did you know you wanted to be a teacher? What brought you to this path in education?
Laura: “I was a student with a learning disability. I had a lot of teachers that I think could have done more, but they didn’t get me. They didn’t understand why I wasn’t remembering lessons or why I wasn’t putting two and two together. If one of my earlier teachers had dug into the curriculum with me, I think I would have done a lot better faster. I believe every single kid that comes to school is worthy of someone investing in them. That’s something that really fuels my fire. I don’t care who you are, or what you’re coming to me with. We’re going to make it work to the best of our ability. That’s why I decided to be a teacher and why I decided to get into Special Education.”
Josie: “I think teaching is just in me. I’m a bilingual teacher because I’m here to be an advocate for students, to teach them how to be an advocate for themselves, and to teach parents how to be an advocate for their children. If there was one thing as a teacher I could change it would be the label that students receive as ‘at risk’ by simply having Spanish as a second language. As soon as some people see that label, they create a subconscious bias, and it affects the rest of that child’s education. So that is my drive- to get students at the beginning and show them they can do it and they have a voice.”
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