- Special Sections
During the Monday night meeting of the Sweetwater ISD (Independent School District) Board of Trustees, a campus report was given on J.P. Cowen Early Childhood Center.
Crystal Meneses, the principal of the school, began the presentation with the assistance of three students from the campus: Ryan Roberson, Rhylie Underwood and Owen Huckabee. They demonstrated to board members the different breathing techniques that are done at the school.
Jennifer Foust, an Early Head Start teacher, stated that her job allowed her to fulfill one of her passions. The campus offers a learning center, where students begin their day with morning rituals and announcements.
Also used throughout the day is a time for students to take part in outside play. On inclement weather days, a motor lab is utilized, in which toys in the lab help to enhance the experience.
Students additionally take on daily responsibilities, taking pride in their tasks. J.P. Cowen works toward developing strong students in a variety of ways--socially, emotionally, cognitively, through language, and physical means, among others--to assist students not only as they move to another campus but for their overall future.
In order to develop a sense of security, a child will stay with their Early Head Start teacher until he or she transitions to a new class. Teachers are also required to make two home visits as another means of growing relationships, and parents are also encouraged to visit and volunteer on campus.
J.P. Cowen partners with other programs outside of the school, and teachers must undergo training before and throughout their employment. Thirty-six hours are required for training, but by the end of the year many teachers have amassed over 60 training hours.
At this time, some teachers are also working toward obtaining their Associate's degrees. The campus also has a compliance monitor on staff to ensure that all levels are being met, as agencies from the local, state and federal level oversee the activity within the campus.
Overall, the teachers, faculty and all staff members strive to meet the goals of their students through teamwork. But not only do the eight students currently in Early Head Start benefit from the program, but the families of the eight students as well.
Another presenter was Head Start teacher Jennifer Withrow. She discussed how students learn in different centers such as technology and writing to prepare for kindergarten.
Students also take part in teacher-guided activities broken down into small groups. Subjects such as learning about letters and science help students use their senses, and technology like the recently-obtained iPads help to reinforce motor skills.
In addition to the iPads, smart boards have been placed in each classroom as well. Also reinforced is cognitive development and self-help skills in order to teach responsibility.
Meneses then brought back her three student helpers, as Ryan, Rhylie and Owen recited a quote that is said daily during the morning announcements. She then offered a brief Powerpoint presentation highlighting the different activities that take place on campus.
On occasion, members of the Sweetwater Fire Department or Police Department have visited students, which promotes community involvement to emphasize safety. Other visitors to the campus have been the Sweetwater High School cheerleaders--in which they hosted a mini pep-rally, and the Mustang Readers, as students enjoy hearing books read to them.
Parent involvement is also promoted, such as parents eating breakfast with their children or through volunteering with the annual Valentine Dance held on campus.
In addition, children also get to take part in "family style dining" as they sit with their peers, also called their "buddies" or "family". They also take part in a PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) pep rally, which honors good citizenship.
The campus has also seen some renovations, in which Atmos Energy assisted with the project. Various pieces of furniture and gathering areas have been remodeled to offer a more welcoming atmosphere at the entrance of J.P. Cowen.