LONG BEACH - Even more than reading, dedication to children and families is fundamental at Long Beach Head Start. Teacher Adrianne Moreno is now finishing her second year of Head Start preschool, after teaching middle school in Arizona for eight years. A bilingual science education teacher with a master's degree, Moreno says teaching preschoolers is a pleasure.

Ms. Moreno recalls, "My mother loved working for Head Start in Maricopa County [Ariz.], so my family has been involved for decades. I taught middle school for eight years before becoming a preschool teacher. At Head Start, I'm associated with not just the children, but also the entire family, in some cases for two full years. Preschoolers are such an interesting group, always so eager to see what's going to happen next. I constantly think about how to instill a love of learning that will last as the children grow."

In the other corner of the center, Josie Kehrli first came to Head Start as a parent and yearned to become a Head Start teacher. She volunteered for two years as her daughter attended. She then earned an associate's degree at Red Rocks Community College and finally went on to earn a bachelor's degree in English literature with a minor in education and social stratification.

"First, I taught my children at home. Preschool education has always been my passion. I'm finishing my fourth year here, but it's been a total of 11 years teaching preschool children in general. I know how much our students learn from our three and a half-hour program. From time to time you see the thrill as a child's face lights up, asking for more. That makes teaching worth it! I am always happy when I can teach the significance of preschool and early intervention to our parents. So much is learned through well planned-out, hands-on play."

With a history of more than 40 years, the Head Start program has proven successful by comprehensively serving families of children from 3- to 5-years old. Each school day includes story telling, learning activities, group play, and ample playground time. Parents are given opportunities to become effective advocates for their children, not just at school, but also in dealing with all the varied needs of children. The goal is to prepare the family and children for public school's social and emotional interactions, as well as making sure they are ready physically and academically.

"The 8:30 morning class starts with breakfast and ends with lunch," says "Cooker" Sandi Day. The afternoon class begins at 10 a.m. and includes a mid-morning snack plus lunch. Each meal emphasizes healthy eating and adventure bites of new foods, with vegetables and fruit prepared on site. Regular tooth brushing in class encourages good dental hygiene habits and the development of personal care skills.

"A child can be enrolled at Head Start as soon as he or she turns three, at any time during the school year," according to Sherry Berteaux, Child & Family Services Supervisor of both Pacific County EOCF centers in Long Beach and South Bend. "Head Start prepares children for kindergarten, for reading and for success in elementary school. Being ready to start with confidence ensures success throughout a child's school years. It is really hard to catch up later, always much better to prevent learning deficits with great preschool preparation. Head Start also focuses on parents, the child's first and most important teachers. They learn to be leaders and advocates for their child's education as well as working on their own literacy and personal goals."

Head Start classes this fall are scheduled to begin no later than Oct. 2, with an earlier start date being discussed. When the date arrives, the little Head Start bus will provide safe transportation to and from home to the center for families living up and down the Peninsula. The bus also includes pick-up and drop-off at Peninsula Church Center Daycare, Long Beach Kids' Club, and other private day care providers.

The Long Beach Center has four days of classes: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. With attention from teachers, classroom aides, school district personnel and volunteers, Head Start children get plenty of one-on-one time reading books, doing crafts, or just talking about ABCs and counting.

Head Start in Long Beach is part of Educational Opportunities for Families and Children, with administrative offices located in Vancouver. Contact Long Beach Head Start at 642-5471 to enroll or for more information.

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