As part of the construction of two middle schools in Higley Unified School District, crews are building at each of the two campuses new preschool facilities.
The state-of-the-art facilities on the Cooley and Sossaman middle school campuses are designed to be “child friendly.” This means sinks, shelving units and other furnishings are installed at a height that suits the smallest of preschool children.
Higley Unified School District offers three preschool programs at each of the new preschool centers: Elona P. Cooley Early Childhood Development Center, 1100 S. Recker Road, Gilbert, and Sue Sossaman Early Childhood Development Center, 18655 E. Jacaranda Blvd., Queen Creek.
Both centers will offer Higley’s three early childhood programs to fit the interests and schedules of all families: Brilliant Beginnings is for 3- and 4-year-olds; Kindergarten Prep for students who are 4 and 5; and STARS for special-needs students.
In the spring, the governing board approved Patti Gleason to become the Higley Unified School District director of preschool programs to oversee the two preschools. She recently discussed her experience and her hopes for the two centers.
Question: How long have you been an early childhood education professional?
Director Patti Gleason: I have worked in early childhood education for 31 years. While working on my degree, I owned and operated a licensed home childcare for 16 years in Michigan. After moving to Arizona, I gained valuable experience in managing an early childhood center and mentoring and training teachers with Children's World Learning Center as assistant center director, center director and then as a new hire trainer. I finished my undergrad degree in 2002 and have been teaching for 11years.
Q: What sort of degrees and certification related to preschool have you earned?
Gleason: I graduated in 2002 from Ottawa University with my bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. I received my master’s degree in early childhood curriculum and instruction from Arizona State University in 2009.
Q: Can you describe your additional experience in early childhood?
Gleason: I was an associate faculty member at ASU Polytechnic campus teaching several early childhood classes for their early childhood program from 2007 to 2012. I have been a mentor for teacher candidates in the ASU Early Childhood program for seven years.
Q: Why did you choose to go into the field of preschool education?
Gleason: Early childhood education has always been my passion. Ninety percent of a child’s critical brain development happens by age 5. I love the amazing capacity of young children to learn - their creativity, their playfulness, energy and innocence. The impact that quality early education programs can make in the lives of children and their families will influence their educational journey throughout their lives. I wanted to help make that difference. I wanted to create engaging environments and activities that would captivate their imaginations and create a life-long love of learning.
Q: What do you hope to achieve leading the two new early childhood centers in the Higley Unified School District?
Gleason: As the director of our new Early Childhood Development Centers I hope to create a safe, nurturing learning environment for children and their families that will encourage, inspire and motivate young children to grow intellectually, socially, emotionally, creatively and physically so they will become confident members of a school family. I want them to love learning and school and have all the tools they will need to be successful kindergarteners. Providing support to our families will also be a priority.