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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.

Quality First helps Hualapai teachers understand the importance of interactions with children

At the Hualapai Day Care Center in Peach Springs, a main goal is to offer a quality, nurturing learning environment for children in the region. 

Teachers are key to providing a positive experience that will prepare children for kindergarten and assure parents that their children are in good hands, said Chira Walema, the center’s director. 

To better meet the needs of young children and families from the Hualapai Tribe, the center participates in the Quality First program to help child care providers in the state improve the quality of their programs in ways that help young children be ready for kindergarten. Participating in Quality First is free for regulated child care centers, homes and preschool programs in Arizona.

“Quality First helps parents gauge if their children are in a quality child care,” Walema said.

Research shows that positive learning settings that provide quality child care in the early years – when most brain growth happens –  play an important role in the healthy development of children. Through their training, the eight teachers at the Hualapai center are learning that their relationship with the children they care for is crucial in the first five years.

A Quality First coach has provided the training and offered guidance to the Hualapai teachers on powerful interactions with children. 

“It’s helped them understand that their interactions with the kids help their learning and development,” Walema said. “And that’s been really helpful, especially in the tribal community, we’re not as talkative and outgoing as if you were in a city setting.”

That aspect of the training focused on principles that encourage teachers to slow down and be intentional in their interactions with children; to acknowledge and validate the child to build trust; and to nurture relationships. 

“The powerful interactions mainly talked about how during play you can interact with the kids, you can get their mind thinking more, you can ask open-ended questions to help with their vocabulary and their language development, those sorts of things,” Walema said. 

Teachers had a chance to put what they learned into practice while the coach observed in the classrooms. 

The center also underwent a health and safety assessment as part of creating a better environment for the children.  

“After the assessment was complete we were able to make the necessary changes throughout our center to improve,” she said. “Hand wash timers were implemented, Quality dollars were used to purchase step stool stairs for hand wash sinks in classrooms to be utilized for meal times,” she said. Helmets also were added to bicycles.

The trainings also help with goal setting and changes that will ultimately benefit the children, Walema said. 

“It’s a positive impact on them, it helps prepare them for school, it helps their social interaction, all of those things,” she said.

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