By Guest Writer Dr. Eva Phillips
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
Program Manager, Ready Schools
February 20, 2017 - Shannon Montalbano and Emily Keilmeyer, Kindergarten specialists with the Colorado Department of Education's Office of Early Learning and School Readiness arrived in North Carolina just in time to enjoy the beautiful spring-like weather while they paid visits to several of the NC Kindergarten Demonstration classrooms in Pender, Carteret and WS/Forsyth Counties.
At a recent Professional Development Institute of the National Association for the Education of Young Children in Baltimore, they had heard about the Demonstration Program work in NC as well as the Power of K initiative in WS/FCS during presentations by Eva Phillips, WS/FCS' Ready Schools Program Manager, Susan Choplin, WS/FCS Kindergarten teacher and NC Demonstration Classroom Teacher and Carla Garrett, NC Office of Early Learning's Title I consultant After the sessions, Shannon and Emily contacted Carla and Eva to arrange for a visit. To inform their own work in CO, they wanted to visitkindergarten classrooms in which teachers are successfully balancing the academic expectations with effective and age and developmentally appropriate environments and instructional practices designed with the unique characteristics and needs of kindergarten age children in mind.
After spending 3 days of traveling and visiting other NC demonstration classrooms at the NC coast, Shannon and Emily arrived in WS/Forsyth County and spent the day in Susan's classroom at Walkertown Elementary on Thursday. While being guided by Eva and Carla who facilitated the observation and answered questions, they observed Susan "in action" as she, her teacher assistant and her children engaged in group meetings, Literacy and Math stations, Choice Centers, small group work and individualized reading opportunities...watching and listening as Susan facilitated and extended learning by engaging in thoughtful conversations with children, asking questions, encouraging her children to use their metacognitive skills while supporting cognitive as well as social emotional and physical development of each child. During activity times the visitors talked and played with the kindergartners as they engaged in meaningful and enjoyable learning opportunities. At the end of the day, the visitors had an opportunity to debrief with Susan about the visit.
In addition, Shannon and Emily wanted to learn more about WS/FCS' Ready Schools work as well as the Power of K Teacher Leader initiative, which has been funded by Kate B Reynolds Charitable Trust. As a special treat, they also got to briefly visit in WS/FCS POK teachers' classrooms at Union Cross Elementary and Caleb's Creek Elementary on Friday morning before they got on a plane to head home.
Our new Colorado friends were thrilled with the types of learning environments and experiences they were able to observe across the state. As they headed back to Colorado to the snow and ice they left at home, they hopefully take back lots of new ideas and strategies for providing effective professional development experiences for their own kindergarten teachers across CO. NC should be proud of the things it is doing in support of effective and engaging practices in our early years and it was an honor to show off the great work that is going on across the state as well as here within WS/FCS.
To learn more about WS/FCS Ready Schools work, please visit
To learn more about Colorado's kindergarten program, please visit