Archive for Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It’s ‘Memory Lane’ for new Language Lane teacher

July 18, 2007

It's been a couple years since Molly Vaughan was a student at Language Lane Preschool in Bonner Springs.

But, after 17 years, it looks and feels virtually the same to her. The large, colorful rug with numbers on it is still there, along with the neat rows of shiny red desks.

Vaughan's memories of this place are nothing but fond, and that's a big reason why she agreed to come back and become to school's new assistant teacher.

"I'm very comfortable coming back," she said. "It's still very much the same atmosphere."

Now almost 20 years old, Vaughan -- the former Molly Thomas -- will spend her summer preparing for the school's 23rd class of students, who will arrive in August.

The chance to come full circle at Language Lane was just the sort of opportunity she was looking for, and it came to her in a unique way.

Language Lane owner Elaine Foley has kept in touch with Vaughan sporadically since she graduated from Language Lane, moved onto the Basehor-Linwood school district and graduated from Tonganoxie High School.

When Foley saw Vaughan's wedding announcement in the newspaper, she decided to give her a call and see how things were going.

A student at Kansas City Kansas Community College, Vaughan had been taking classes toward a degree in nursing and working as an emergency medical technician but was thinking about switching her focus to teaching. When Foley mentioned she was looking for a new assistant teacher for the school, Vaughan jumped at the chance.

"Ever since I was little, I wanted to be like Mrs. Foley," Vaughan said. "I wanted to be a teacher."

The interview process was a little different than most with Vaughan and Foley because they already knew each other. Both women agreed they just clicked and spent much of their time reminiscing.

Show-and-tell day was a big deal, Vaughan remembers, because her dad who owned a trucking company, drove a semi up to the front door of the school for all the children to see.

"Most of the children had never seen one before," Vaughan said. "My dad lifted every kid up so they could sit in the seat."

A well-kept scrapbook from each school year shows a picture of the event: a long line of children bundled up in winter coats waiting patiently for their turn in the truck, while 3-year-old Vaughan acted as the resident semi-truck expert.

"I remember that day," Foley said laughing. "Little Molly was out there on the sidewalk instructing."

A stroll around the school also helped Vaughan combine her memories as a child with methods of teaching children.

Vaughan said being a former student at the school will definitely help her in her role as a teacher because she can see the world of Language Lane through the eyes of both an adult and a child.

While the colorful, numeric rug in the center of the school has been replaced a time or two, it is still the same design. Vaughan remembers well from her childhood. But, as an adult she said she now sees it as a way of organizing and learning for children. The teacher can ask a child to please sit on the number 5 space on the rug, and the children learn from that aspect, Vaughan said.

"Also, the red desks," she said. "When you're 3, it's a big deal because you have a real school desk. You sit and learn your numbers. That is definitely school."

Vaughan said she also remembered feeling like she was better prepared for kindergarten than many of the children in her class and credits this to her time at Language Lane.

With the preschool's focus on speech and language acceleration, Foley said the students stay on a schedule and learn from literature units. Books are read several times, emphasizing vocabulary, and all activities the students participate in are pulled from the books. Creative learning is practiced through fieldtrips and activities such as attending the Junior League Play each spring. After watching the play, the students came back to the school, wrote their own play about St. Patrick's Day using the vocabulary they'd learned and performed it in front of an audience.

Children learned the elements of a story, created their own characters and used vocabulary words while still playing and having fun.

"Everything we do has a purpose," Foley said. "And that needs to be learning."

All the qualities Foley looks for in an assistant teacher including a love for children, a knack for working with them, dependability and creativeness, were embodied in Vaughan, she said.

"Well, I knew Molly and thought, how lucky can I get?" Foley said. "I knew she was the quality that we wanted at Language Lane."

Vaughan will spend several sessions this summer with Foley and Language Lane lead teacher Debra Barta learning the responsibilities of the assistant teacher, coordinating lesson plans, observing classes at other schools and ultimately preparing for the first day of school when the children walk through the door. Vaughan said she's looking forward to interacting with the children, watching them grow and witnessing what many teachers describe as the "ah-ha" moments with the students when they start to understand a difficult concept.

But, mostly she said she wants to help the children have the same experience she had at the school and provide them with stability because she sees Language Lane as a place she will never outgrow.

"I had more memories here than I do in all of grade school, and I want the children to look back and remember the same things that I do," she said. "I can't think of any bad memories. It was always fun."

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