For kindergarten students, ‘kind’ comes first

March 10, 2023

Kindergarten students at Captain Strong Primary

Breanne Thompson’s kindergarten students at Captain Strong Primary start the day by sharing how they’re feeling

The word “kindergarten” likely conjures up images of letters, numbers, shapes and paste. But this formative educational time also sets the stage for future success in other important ways. 

“Kindergarten is our opportunity to make school a great place to be,” said Becky Long, now in her 31st year at Yacolt Primary School. “If they know this is a safe, happy and comfortable place right off the bat, it gives them a good footing for the rest of their education.”

Kindergarteners usually start out their year with something closer to preschool, focusing on social skills and learning to play together. After that, they begin to work on reading and writing, basic math skills and other educational fundamentals.

Kindergarten students in Marinel Wampach's class at Pleasant Valley Primary

Kindergarten students learn about perseverance in Marinel Wampach’s class at Pleasant Valley Primary

“The growth that kindergartners  make in such a short amount of time is amazing to watch,” said Yolande Andrus, now in her 16th year teaching kindergarten at Yacolt Primary School. “Parents are used to reading books to their children. By the end of the year, the kiddos are reading the books to their parents.”

Marinel Wampach, a kindergarten teacher in her ninth year at Pleasant Valley Primary, says social and emotional learning is about helping students feel like they can both contribute to and exist positively within a community. 

“You need to instruct them on how to do that just as much as you need to show them how to hold a pencil or how to write their name correctly,” Wampach said. “There is a lot of research that shows the correlation between successful social and emotional teaching and academics.”

Long said the emotional evolution of students in kindergarten can be just as rewarding as seeing them learn to read, write and solve basic math problems. “Sometimes, at the start of the year, you can barely hear some students talk because they’re so shy,” she said. “And then, for them to come and be able to share something with the entire class by the end of the year, that’s really neat.”

Captain Strong kindergarten teacher Diana Knauss helps a student

Captain Strong kindergarten teacher Diana Knauss helps a student

By the end of their time in kindergarten, students should understand when and how to ask questions, respect their peers and work well within a community. Teachers and school counselors also work with parents and guardians to let them know where students are in the learning process and how they can help by setting a positive example, going over lessons and reinforcing behavioral expectations.

“[By the end of the year] I’d expect them to be practicing interpersonal skills, practicing respect and perseverance and using manners and then also being able to be more reflective and accurately be able to identify their own feelings,” Wampach said. “Ultimately, they should be able to engage in problem solving both with themselves and with other relationships they have.”

If your child will be 5 years old by Aug. 31, 2023, they are eligible to enroll in kindergarten starting next fall. To learn more and begin the registration process, visit the district’s kindergarten enrollment webpage.


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