New childcare training program includes classroom with one-way mirrors

Nap time had just ended one recent afternoon at the Great Start Readiness Program’s new classroom at Kent ISD’s Transition Center. One of the children sat by herself in tears.

Teacher Melissa Boyette noticed the tears and sat next to the 4-year-old with a book. The tears soon turned into a smile as they immersed themselves in the story.

Kent ISD’s Early Childhood Director Ashley Karsten stands in the observation room at the new childcare center at Kent Transition Center

Thanks to the classroom’s design and one-way mirrors, private moments of learning and caring like that could become lessons for parents and future early childhood staff.

With the one-way mirrors, the classroom also can be used to demonstrate new technology or new early learning techniques, according to Ashley Karsten, director of early childhood programs at Kent ISD. Her staff will use the classroom for coaching and teaching purposes.

“Once you put adults in a classroom, it’s a distraction for the kids,” she explains. The new preschool classroom, which opened this fall with 14 students, is one of 191 Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) classrooms in Kent County.

Some 32,000 children in Kent County participate in the GSRP preschools, Karsten said. They qualify based on income or risk factors such as low birth weights or foster care backgrounds.

Dual Purpose

The new classroom has a dual purpose. It will also be used by the Child and Family Care Program offered by Kent Transition Center.

Child and Family Care Program instructors Beth Mazur and para-professional Teyondra Burch say they plan to use the classroom for their program, which offers up to eight hours of college credits to high school juniors and seniors who enroll in the program.

Beth Mazur, foreground, and Teyondra Burch, use the new demonstration classroom at Kent Transition Center to train high school students

“You can see them in their natural environment without them knowing we’re here,” says Burch. The mirrors allow them to discuss the techniques they observe while the children and their teachers get through the day without the disruptions of having visitors.

While similar demonstration classrooms are available at child development programs offered by colleges, Mazur said the new classroom makes state-of-the art programs available to high schoolers as well.

Students enrolled in the Transition Center program also get hands-on experience at daycare centers throughout the community, Mazur said. Students who go through the entire two-year course can use their college credits to gain further accreditation.

If they use their training to obtain a child development associate (CDA) credential, students are qualified to work at daycare centers, where earnings start at $12 an hour and up, Burch said.