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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Ahwatukee boy learns to stay on track and reduce frustration at Quality First preschool

Five-year-old Thatcher has always been a kind, friendly and happy boy. But before he started preschool, his mother said his biggest challenges were focus, impulse control and transition. 

Daily tasks like putting on socks and shoes and getting ready for the day could at times result in frustration for him and his mom, Tiffany Vance. 

“Thatcher loves learning and socializing. He has always been the first one to help a friend, but he struggled with focus and regulation,” said Vance, the mom of three. “Before starting preschool, it was difficult for him to walk from the front to the back of the classroom without distraction or disruption.”

Thatcher’s older brother attended Children of Hope Child Development Center in Ahwatukee and Vance was hopeful the quality preschool program would also help Thatcher develop important skills he needed to be ready for kindergarten. 

Children of Hope Child Development Center’s preschool participates in the Quality First program, which supports early care and education programs as they help prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond.

The First Things First East Maricopa Regional Partnership Council funds Quality First in the region to help early care and education providers strengthen their programs through professional development and coaching, specialized assistance from a team of early childhood experts, and funding to improve facilities and learning materials.

When Thatcher started preschool at age 4, the teachers and staff understood his strengths and his challenges. 

They told Vance that implementing intervention strategies like giving the young boy choices and having him sit on a wiggle seat would help him to regulate his behavior and help him focus on learning. The wiggle seat provided Thatcher with subtle movement, like gentle bouncing or rocking, without having to get up from his seat and helped with self-regulation. 

Thatcher’s teachers at Children of Hope were patient and positive in their approach to guiding learning experiences for him, Vance said. Over time, he flourished in learning numbers and letters, while also making tangible connections and understanding. 

“He learned what numbers and words represented and that led to him being more engaged and enthusiastic in his classroom setting,” Vance said. “His teachers used ways to keep him focused and they understood how to keep him centered.”

Thatcher has started kindergarten and although he is still developing and evolving his learned skills, he is thriving in his new class. He listens, comprehends and is adjusting to new routines. 

Techniques he learned in preschool have translated to home, improving interactions with their family, Vance said. He is much better at understanding tasks and making connections on his own. He is better able to stay on track to complete everyday routines, which has helped him be less frustrated and more confident. 

“His preschool teachers and the quality of his experiences were instrumental in shaping who he is today,” Vance said. “He really loved his teachers and felt so loved by them as well. Although he is a bright child, I don’t think his success would be to the level it is now if it weren’t for the early intervention he received at Children of Hope.”

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