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Classroom Support Program Helps Teachers Feel Confident and Connected

Classroom support professionals (CSPs) are an integral part of the early learning teaching team. The work they do each day in partnership with the classroom lead teacher — from implementing daily classroom activities and lessons and developing nurturing and engaging relationships with each child to ensuring a safe and ready-to-learn classroom environment — supports children’s growth and development now and for years to come.

CSPs play a critical role — but who supports the support professionals? That’s where Early Learning Indiana’s innovative Classroom Support Work-based Learning Program comes in. The 13-week program is required of every new Day Early Learning (DEL) team member upon hire and acts as an orientation to the Day Early Learning way. The program utilizes an Explore, Practice, Apply instructional model that combines online instruction with real-time classroom application to build knowledge and skills with the support of a cooperative teacher. Graduates of the program feel connected, capable and confident in the classroom. 

Jada Harris is a CSP success story as one of the original DEL team members to participate in the pilot program when she was an assistant pre-K teacher at Park 100. “My lead teacher encouraged me to take the course. Sometimes as a new teacher you wonder how much you are actually helping in the classroom. The program showed me all the ways I was helping and allowed me to increase my skills in so many areas.”

Jada’s program mentor, Michelle Arboe, provided support and advice along the way. “She was great at checking in on me to make sure I stayed on track,” Jada said. “It was so helpful to work with her to implement the lessons. For example, if I was learning about meal service, I would do the online part, then go into her classroom and shadow her before leading it myself the next time. She would help with coaching and feedback on each skill.”

Michelle’s support continued even after the course. “She keeps an open line of communication. I can go to her with anything in my classroom and get advice,” Jada said. “We have a great relationship.”

A self-described hands-on learner, Jada appreciated the mix of online and real-world lessons in the CSP program and the opportunity to “read it, see it and then actually go do it.” Jada said filming the practice videos could be tricky logistically — “every kid wanted to be in the videos!” — but it offered a unique opportunity to watch herself in action and reflect on areas where she did well and areas that could be improved.

Jada points to parent communication as a key skill she improved from the CSP course. “I always greeted the parents, but I started to be more intentional about connecting with each family in the morning. I’ll ask about the child’s day so far and any concerns and really make a point to build that relationship.”

Last fall, Jada moved into the lead preschool teacher role at Park 100 and says the CSP program was instrumental in ensuring she was equipped to succeed in the new role. Her class of 3- and 4-year-olds never ceases to amaze her with their creativity, imaginations and the funny things they say. Jada enjoys incorporating cooking and baking into the classroom and working on arts and crafts projects with her students.

Jada recently earned her Child Development Associate® (CDA) credential and plans to build those credits toward an associate degree and then a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. Eventually, she’d like to work as a school leader and impact even more families.

Her advice to new team members embarking on the CSP course? “It can get rough at times, and it can be a struggle to balance everything,” she said. “But keep the goal in mind. You can see your progress in the classroom and that makes it all worth it. I tell new staff that I understand, that I’ve been through it — and that they can do it too.”

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