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Penn College Students Support Local School’s Effort

Members of the Early Educators student organization, seated, from left%3A Stephanie L. Zimmerman, Michaela A. Lehman, and Eryn K. Young%3B standing, Thomas A. Gallup Jr. and Thomas C. Heffner, Early Educators adviser.Four Pennsylvania College of Technology students volunteered to take part in an initiative by the Williamsport Area School District to close achievement gaps and raise the performance level of pupils at Sheridan Elementary School.

On July 19, Penn College early childhood education students Thomas A. Gallup Jr., Williamsport; Michaela A. Lehman, Montoursville; Eryn K. Young, Sunbury; and Stephanie L. Zimmerman, Cogan Station, helped to educate parents of young children about opportunities to promote early literacy at home.

They identified five areas in the house and came up with ways parents could use everyday objects found in those spaces to help promote literacy. The students prepared a hands-on workshop and presented it to the parents of incoming kindergarteners.

Sheridan Elementary School was one of 16 schools selected to participate in the Pennsylvania Achievement Gap Effort (PAGE 1), a three-year grant awarded by the Council of Basic Education.

An achievement gap exists when groups of students with relatively equal ability fail to achieve at the same levels in school, according to the state Board of Education.

As part of the PAGE 1 initiative, the school implemented a pre-kindergarten screening program to identify children in need of additional support. Sheridan sought the expertise of educators from Penn College and from the local Intermediate Unit to learn how best to screen and instruct preschool students.

After all incoming kindergarteners were screened, several were offered a two-week program to help familiarize them with kindergarten expectations. During the program, parents were offered workshops, including the one presented by Penn College students under the direction of Thomas C. Heffner, the college’s early childhood education program specialist.

All four of the presenters are sophomores and members of Early Educators, a student organization.

“All of them are exceptional students; that’s why they were chosen for this type of experience,” Heffner said.

Based on the success of their presentation, the students have been invited to continue helping with Sheridan Elementary School’s PAGE 1 initiative, and to present at the local Intermediate Unit’s annual conference.

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