As we walked into the Hesston College Preschool at 9:15 a.m. our first semester, we felt a mix of emotions: excitement and nervousness. We did not know what to expect. Then we met Larisa. She welcomed us into the classroom with a smile and a very cheerful, “Good morning!” As she gave us a brief run-down of what to expect, we unfortunately became even more nervous for the day. For the rest of the time, we observed Larisa, looking for different methods and approaches she used in relating with the children and leading the class.
Since then, we have been in the preschool every semester. Through watching Larisa work, we have learned not only a greater appreciation for preschool aged children, but also more ways to challenge children in their cognitive and social development.
Larisa challenged us every week to relate to the children in the class, to be confident in our abilities and lessons, and most importantly to love the children that are hard to love. As a result of Larisa’s influences, we now feel capable in our future careers as educators, and now know that one of the greatest gifts we can give a child is our love.
by Tami Keim, Professor of Early Childhood Education
Chances are that many of you haven’t seen much of Larisa Lawrence during her 13 years teaching here at Hesston College. The reason why is that she has spent almost all of her time in what she and I jokingly refer to as Hesston’s West Campus; that is, the Hesston College Preschool in the Peachey Center.
Little did Larisa (or I) dream during her first round of Hesston College experience as one of my ECE students in 1991-93 that she would one day become the director of the preschool. After Hesston she continued her education and taught in various early ed centers in Oregon and Colorado, including one especially for children who were experiencing abusive situations, she returned to teach at Hesston in the fall of 2005.
Being the HC preschool teacher requires one to wear a couple of hats simultaneously. She plans and teaches the children’s program while also overseeing and guiding the college students as they interact and support children’s learning. I’ve appreciated working closely with Larisa as we have coordinated the preschool program and the college ECE courses so that the college students can apply what they are learning in the college classroom into their lesson plans and interactions with the children each week
Have you ever tried to guide 14 children through a learning experience while the 15th one is having a meltdown? Oh, and you are being observed by a couple of college students who are trying to learn how to handle such situations? That is where Larisa’s calm demeanor and Conscious Discipline skills come into play.
Or, have you tried to prepare learning activities for a group whose skill levels are diverse – one may be reading on a 3rd grade level while another can identify only the letters of his name? That is where Larisa’s philosophy of respecting and meeting each child where they are at while engaging them in meaningful learning interactions comes into play.
I am sad to see Larisa leave, but I am happy for her as she moves into her next venture. She will student teach in early childhood special education settings next fall. Then, she will secure a teaching position closer to her home in Wichita. Her car with over 300,000 miles needs to hold up for its daily 90 mile round trip trek just a little while longer.
If you’d like to gain a richer glimpse into Larisa’s work in the preschool, take a few moments to enjoy the Hesston College Preschool blog. It just might make you wish you could become a preschooler again! http://hesstoncollegepreschool.blogspot.com/