RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (AP) — When Amarilys Castillo walks into her classroom, she knows it will only be a matter of time before her students lose focus.
A preschool teacher at the Liberty County Pre-K Center, Castillo said some of her students look like little zombies and need to catch a few z’s before they are ready to learn. “It goes downhill after recess,” said Castillo.
“They are done. They are over it. My kids get to school and they are half sleep. You feel bad because they are exhausted. It tugs at your heart strings.”
With that, Castillo realized she had to do something.
OPENING UP A NEW PRESCHOOL FOR RICHMOND HILL CHILDREN
This summer, Castillo is set to open Lily’s Bilingual School, a multicultural preschool in Richmond Hill.
“I kind of came up with this idea because I love what I do,” said Castillo. “It’s always kind of been in my heart. I want to do this to help my community. I love this age of 3-5-years old. It’s so fun. I am able to be creative and artistic. Teaching is exciting and the kids will always make you laugh.”
Castillo wants to reshape what preschool should look like.
Students will attend class just a few hours a week, leaving nap time up to the parent. Castillo said the short timeframe is more than enough for students to retain what they have learned. “It’s a concentrated amount of time but we can get a lot done in that time,” she said.
Parents are growing more concerned about lengthy preschool hours, saying 4–6-year-olds are not mature enough emotionally to make it through an 8-9 hour day of schooling. With eight years of experience in education, Castillo said she envisions her school “being a place where learning happens through laughter, play and adventure, as well as exposure to a bilingual-based curriculum.”
Castillo hopes her bilingual program will allow Hispanic parents to be involved in their child’s education. She has witnessed the difficulties of parents who are eager to help their child succeed but cannot because they do not know how to communicate with their teacher.
In addition, there are different dialects within Hispanic culture. She picked up on those languages throughout her time in education, so she is able to navigate through conversations that are different from her native tongue. But until there is more diversity, she fears parents will not know how to help their child thrive academically.
“Learning to speak English is very hard,” said Castillo.
“You need to know English if you have a Hispanic background. I have taught in Savannah and have dealt with the Hispanic community. I feel like it’s hard to get parents involved. We need to get more employees and volunteers to help include these families. They want to help their kids but they don’t know how. They try to pick up bits and pieces of what is being told to them, but I don’t think they get the whole idea. They always say, ‘yes, yes’ because they want to be seen as helpful.”
Castillo, who is Puerto Rican, said she wants to share food that’s true to her heritage, as well as introduce students to different cultures. She hopes to spark a movement where teachers include more ethnicities in their curriculum.
“I really do think exposure is a big thing, even with the books that are read,” said Castillo. “People need to see all cultures represented. I hope the parents will push for this in the elementary ages. I hope there is a domino effect from this.”