Families show huge support for students ◆ By Mike Hiles
The Soboba Tribal Preschool currently has 90 students enrolled and expects to fill up the last few slots to take it over the 100 mark soon. It offers classes for ages two and three and a pre-k class for four-year-olds. A kindergarten class rounds out the student body.
A back-to-school night was held on Sept. 12 for parents, siblings and other family members to visit the classrooms where their kids are kept busy during the day. This was followed by a dinner in the multi-purpose room for families to visit with others and share what their children are doing.
Colorful artwork decorated the walls and halls, along with lots of evidence that students have been working hard on learning many new things since school started last month.
Each classroom has a theme for the school year with the "2s" being the Monsters Inc. room and the "3s" Superheroes. The pre-k class is all about walking the red carpet and being stars in their own rights while the kindergartners will explore adventures in learning as clever foxes.
Two-year-old students led their guests into their Jr. Preschool classroom that was dominated with an "All About Me" wall that listed their likes, pets, birthday and family members and was filled with photos. The teachers stress to parents that although all the work may seem like play, everything in the room has a purpose. Children are learning to share and care about others around them while strengthening muscles, both small and large.
Melissa Arviso has worked at the preschool four years but this is her first time with the three-year-olds. She started as an instructional aide for the first kindergarten class. Working with Tanya Michles, she is excited to work with the young ones on their writing skills.
"I teach them how to hold a pencil properly and they can already trace their name," said Arviso, who lives at the Soboba Reservation. "I also oversee the Parent Committee at the preschool – we had about 10 regular participants last year."
She said all four of her children attended the tribal preschool and said she can attest to the school's ability to provide excellent preparation for attending public school. Arviso has an eighth-grader who was consistently on the honor roll and a fourth-grader who reads at a sixth-grade level.
"I'm a big Marvel superhero fan so it was only natural that we'd choose that theme for our super students this year," she said. "They are already starting to learn their numbers, letters, days of the week and also their Luiseño language. They soak up everything they learn at this age."
Homework begins at this level, with worksheets and short activities that reinforce what children are learning in class.
The pre-k class had a bulletin board announcing "Now Showing: Our Best Work" to stick with the theme of Hollywood and the movie industry. A letter of the week is reflected in art and writing activities as well as Friday Share Day, when the child brings something from home to share with the class that begins with the same letter they are learning about that week.
Kindergarten students are in class for six hours and pack a lot of learning – and fun – into each day. Readiness skills such as being able to use crayons, scissors and pencils correctly and sit quietly to listen to a story are just a few of the skills that are emphasized each day.
Teacher Cindy Lee said this is the youngest group of kindergartners she has ever had.
"Of the 24 students, 14 just turned five over the summer – that's a lot," she said. "We've had to do a lot more movement and listening skills. All but one are from the pre-k class here so that helps but it's also a longer day."
Emma Nevarez and Joey Hunter have three children, Betsy Lou (3), Charlie Mae (2) and Penny Jo (six months) and currently Betsy Lou is the only one enrolled.
"I like the school," said Nevarez, of Hemet. "She comes home and teaches her sister all the songs she learned in class. We have a regular routine now."
She said she wanted her daughter to attend this school because she went to the Soboba preschool when she was young, although it was not at the site it is currently at.
"Now she's going to school with children of the kids I went to preschool with here," Nevarez said.