Around her neck, Leslie Devlin wears a silver necklace that repeats the phrase “I Love You” over and over again between heart-shaped silver trinkets. As the head of the Early Childhood Professional Certification program at Lennard High School, Devlin knows the power of positive reinforcement (with a healthy dose of love) in achieving goals and setting standards for her student teachers.
The Lennard High School’s “Little Longhorn” Learning Program continues through mid-May, and is focused on providing Early Childhood Education students with practical hands-on experience working with preschoolers in a nurturing, challenging environment.
“We have young children, three to four years old, in the program,” said Devlin, who developed the course in collaboration with Little Longhorns Preschool in Ruskin to enable her high-school students to enter careers in teaching immediately after graduation.
The Lennard program awards graduates the equivalent of a Child Development Associate certification without the high cost of attending a four-year college. Graduates of the Lennard program can land jobs in private daycare centers, Head Start programs and preschools, places where quality teachers are sorely needed.
“ I set my standards high for my students” said Devlin. “Attendance is critical in fostering a strong work ethic, and I require that my students dress and behave in a professional manner to prepare them for the competitive job market.”
The Lennard course requires 480 hours working with children, ages three to five, plus the successful completion of ECE classes 1-4, Early Literacy training, and 40 hours of DCF exams, conducted weekly by the Department of Children and Family Services.
Students must complete structured courses covering the topics of health, safety and nutrition, child abuse and neglect, child growth and development, and behavioral observation and screening. Seniors enrolled in the course must complete a professional portfolio, a resume, 15 competency goals, and a mastery project before graduating.
“The parents of the preschoolers love this program,” said Devlin. “The kids get so much individual attention.” With 60 high-school students participating in the program, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
The student teachers follow a rotation schedule in which they spend one week as a lead teacher, one week as a student teacher, and a third week planning strategy and developing lesson plans. They learn skills in designing lesson plans as well as disciplinary techniques.
“When it comes to disciplinary measures, we practice redirection, modeling behavior, positive reinforcement and, as a last resort, a time-out,” said Devlin.
Some of her students plan to look for jobs in private daycare or governmental children’s services, while others aspire to attend college and become elementary- or secondary-school teachers.
Parents who are interested in getting their toddlers involved in the program may call 641-5611, ext. 281, or stop by the main office of Lennard High School for more information. Lennard High School is at 2342 E. Shell Point Road in Ruskin.