Tori Sheppard returns to the Early Learning Center at the East Valley JCC to teach the new ELC Kindergarten class.

ELC Director Pam Morris speaks with Tori Sheppard, who will teach the new ELC Kindergarten class when it begins in July 2023.

Pam: Tell me how you got into education. 

Tori: I have three younger siblings that I helped take care of while growing up and in doing so I  realized I loved working with children. I also grew up moving around a lot, we were a  military family. School became my predictable and consistent environment, and a lot of  teachers made a huge impact on my life. I’d like to make that difference in a child’s life  as well.  

What’s your connection to the Early Learning Center? 

I moved to Arizona in 2014 to go to college and started working at the JCC during my  first semester of school. I worked with the JCC until I started going to NAU. Now that my husband and I have our own children, I wanted to find a safe environment for them. The  JCC was taking a lot of precautions for covid that made me feel so much better about  having our children here. I also was still familiar with many of the staff and how well they run things in the Early Learning Center and that was another huge piece of it for me. 

What are you most excited about in this first year of ELC kindergarten? 

I just love this age. Children this age range are so fun and the whole world is new and somewhat mysterious for kindergarten-age children. When children pose questions, it helps you see things from a new or different angle, furthering my own never-ending learning process. I also really look forward to building relationships with the students and their families.  

What is your philosophy about education and the importance of kindergarten? 

My philosophy of teaching is more of a humanistic approach. This entails teaching the  ‘whole child’ by addressing social, emotional, and cognitive growth. Kindergarten is one  of the most foundational years for students to become life-long learners and provides the  building blocks they need to become independent in navigating the educational world on their own two feet.   

Tell me about some of your ideas for individualization of learning objectives. 

Individualizing learning objectives can be done several different ways. In the beginning of the year, I work to get to know each child’s interests, needs and abilities. This allows  me to create opportunities for learning that motivate students, while also building on their  previous knowledge. I scaffold children’s learning throughout the year by using  supportive interactions and I regularly monitor children’s progress toward achieving  their goals and adjust accordingly. I also look for the ways each child learns best (audio  learners, visual learners, etc.) and find ways to integrate that into lessons to meet the  needs of multiple students at the same time.  

What are the benefits of a small kindergarten? 

Individualizing objectives for students is a huge benefit of having a small classroom.  Since there are fewer students, it will allow me more time to focus on each child’s  individual needs and build up the relationship between us in the process as well.  Having a smaller class also means they will get the attention they need from me and will  have more opportunities to participate in class discussions. Research has also shown that students in smaller class sizes have higher grades and are overall more successful  during the year.

Learn more about the new kindergarten here