High school students interacting with preschool children

Pictured: CHS student Hayden Rangel, left, runs a center at Little Eagle Preschool with preschoolers Ben, center, and Sam, right.

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Aberdeen Central High School students are getting hands-on learning this week and next week by running their very own preschool in the ATEC building. 

Little Eagle Preschool, open to children ages 3-6, is staffed by CHS students in Elizabeth Ketterling’s Child Development class. 

Ketterling said her class has included this hands-on preschool teaching experience in the past, but it changed the past few years due first to COVID restrictions and then scheduling changes. This year, she was able to offer it again—and the 15 students in her class were excited about it. 

“They went out and tried to find as many kids as possible,” she said. “They planned their lessons, and they were all in when we were planning for it.” 

Seven children attended this week’s session of Little Eagle Preschool. Ketterling said the kids were primarily children of teachers in the district. 

To prepare, the Central students planned a theme for the week, which was animals. They selected free play activities, a book and a calendar activity, and songs for a song cube activity. 

At the preschool, students did center rotations with the children, which included a craft, a sensory activity and some sort of dramatic piece to act. They also provided a small snack. 

Ketterling said she has seen some students who have struggled in previous classes thrive now when working with kids. 

“It's fun to see that shift because this is a really hands-on class,” she said. 

For some students, the experience shines a light on what they want to do for a career. 

“I've had a kid recently tell me, because of my preschool class, she knew that she wanted to be a teacher,” Ketterling said. “It is neat to be able to see that progress.” 

She also once had a student who planned to go into welding—but after he took the class, he decided to pursue early childhood instead. 

“That was really neat,” she said. “He was awesome with the kids and it came really naturally to him.” 

Other students realize that this isn’t the right career for them. Ketterling said either way, the experience provides them an opportunity to find that out early on. 

Three of the students running the preschool this year are junior Tehya Usselman and sophomores Kaylee Donat and Taylor Thorstenson. All three said it has been a positive experience. 

Before taking the class, Thorstenson said, she wasn’t quite sure what to expect. 

“I thought I was just going to learn about the toddler age,” she said. “But it actually taught me a lot more about kids and how to teach them.” 

Usselman said she has considered going into education as a possible future career choice. 

“After doing this, it kind of solidifies that I really would like to,” she said. 

Donat has had a similar experience. 

“I've always wanted to go in the medical field,” she said. “But it's starting to change my mind because I really love the kids.” 

Little Eagle Preschool will be open again from 8:10-9:30 a.m. Tuesday-Friday, Dec. 19-22. The week’s theme will be Christmas. Parents who are interested in their children attending the preschool may contact Ketterling by emailing Elizabeth.Ketterling@k12.sd.us

About the Aberdeen Public School District 

The Aberdeen Public School District provides a comprehensive educational program to approximately 4,200 students in grades K-12, with a mission of empowering all students to succeed in a changing world. Our students receive the knowledge and skills necessary to reach their potential in a global community through high expectations of academic achievement; diverse educational opportunities; and community involvement in a safe, supportive environment. Learn more at aberdeen.k12.sd.us.