SAVE THE DATE. Farewell Reunion. Retirement tribute. June 7th. 6-8PM. Gloucester Preschool at the High School.
The unusual and innovative preschool at Gloucester High School meshes the education of Gloucester public high school students with a class of 4 year old preschoolers. These two age groups don’t usually interact. How does it work? Albina Papows, that’s how, for forty years.
Albina Papows is a visionary educator.
Along with Mrs. Papows and Mrs. Reis, there were eight to ten high school seniors selected as full-time “student teachers.” Another fifty or so high school students enrolled in 1 to 3 periods a day throughout the week. The high school student teachers were assigned to teams that alternated amazingly coordinated and extensive curriculum…weekly.
photo: sample weekly news
below photo: “…this was Allie’s activity. She gave us bee like toys and there were flowers, we made out of paper with bowls in the middle of the room which were filled with glitter nectar and we took the bee toys (which we had decorated) and we put glue on them and then we flew from flower to flower scooping the glitter nectar pollen from the bowls in the flower.”
Papows designed two classrooms with an access passage between them. This clever hall is a threshold, constructed with a line of cubby lockers along one wall and an immense window along the opposite wall. The “glazing” was actually a two-way observation mirror for viewing into the preschool classroom.
photo: doorway into the cubby entrance to the preschool (Mrs. Papows leaning down to speak to each student as they head out for the day). High school students turned right to enter the high school classroom.
The program was woven into the high school environment fluidly and effectively. The preschoolers went on “field trips” to the foreign language rooms, the auto mechanic trade rooms, and the library. Special holidays and events were teaching opportunities and fun. On Thanksgiving, the preschool program prepared not one but three turkeys with full accompanying sides, all cooked and prepared as much ahead with the preschoolers. I am sure Mrs. Papows and Mrs. Reis needed to give up much of their predawn hours to prepare not only for the preschoolers, but for all those hungry high school students! The Gloucester H.S. Preschool teachers and student teachers volunteered their time in the community. I will never forget when they created activities and collected toys and treats for a friend of my sons, a 5 year old little boy stricken with cancer and in a hospital for years awaiting a bone marrow match. They walked at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and to raise awareness for the “swab to save a life” bone marrow campaign that the little boy needed. Today he is thriving and cancer free.
On weekends the high school students sent home their school projects which were serious work on their end and magical custom hand made activities and games for our kids.
I have to thank John and Alexandra, Alexandra’s Bread, for steering my family to this incredible preschool resource. Upon their recommendation, I made an appointment to visit the program and was immediately bowled over by seeing so many engaged and vibrant young adults–male and female– with so much energy and hope in their faces all directed at these lucky little preschoolers. I vividly recall my mother–who had a long career in education and extensive experience with teacher evaluations– putting her hands on my shoulder to grab my attention when she visited the class for the first time.
“Do you understand how remarkable it is that Mrs. Papows can switch her style back and forth each and every day teaching preschoolers and high school students like that?! They require completely different skills, approaches and handling!” Ok maybe not ‘handling’.
Ah, no, I didn’t. Her comments did bring back my sons’ first day of school when I experienced Mrs. Papows’ quick social intelligence and observation skills. She leaned down to study my sons, identical twins, and would not let them pass until she knew them. She did it so fast, I thought, is she one of those super recognizer people, the ones I’ve read about that are so adept at facial recognition and reading people?
I came to believe that this impressive preschool program was so good that it was clearly a terrific opportunity for Gloucester to reveal an outstanding teaching model. Maybe it could inspire other programs or be replicated across other school systems? So I wrote letters and made phone calls to successive superintendents and principals, some contacts, and a few local and national media outlets about this hidden jewel, urging them to please, please keep Gloucester High School and this inspirational model program in mind and share it. What a great teacher story! What great high school students! At the time, national attention was focused elsewhere. Forget the preschool and kindergarten at the 92nd Street Y and other private preschools in New York City: here was a local public school facing some economic challenges offering work at a high caliber.
When my kids went to elementary school, there were more great teachers. I thought it would be nice to have a Staff Shine box on the Gloucester Public School and city website. There would be no hesitation which teacher I would write about first.
Now my kids are at O’Maley Innovation and are learning from excellent middle school teachers. When the Honor Roll is published, the list is filled with former Gloucester High School preschool students. Thank you Gloucester preschool at the High School, all the former high school student teachers, Mrs. Reis and especially Mrs. Papows!
Please share the “Farewell Reunion” news so that former students and preschoolers can join in! SAVE THE DATE. Farewell Reunion. June 7th. 6-8PM. Gloucester Preschool at the High School.