BearKittens students take gold, silver, and bronze at Skills USA
Early Childhood Education (ECE) competitors seniors Taylor Pafumi, Alexandra Jenks, and Carina Ezzell took the podium on April 22, as they placed gold, silver, and bronze consecutively at the SkillsUSA State Competition in San Diego. Adorned in matching SkillsUSA black jackets, their white ribboned medals stood out, gleaming in the light. An ocean of competitors and officials clad in the distinctive red jackets applauded behind them, as the sea of people in front of the girls cheered. In the audience was Bearkittens teacher Brenda Matthysse, who has attended every state competition since she joined the program 16 years ago. She has led her students to this level by coaching and encouraging them. Pouring time into the high school students, helping them conquer their nerves of competing, and preparing them for each event in the competition are just some ways she has coached them.
Though ECE competitors often do well on the state level, according to Matthysse, at least ten times, they have placed first, second, and third simultaneously. Out of this year’s PRHS SkillsUSA wins, ECE is the only category to receive these results.
“All three of these students are standout students in my program with great potential,” Matthysse said.
Each had to compete against 19 other students in taking a five part test, which included an interview, lesson plan and teaching as if there were a child present. Pafumi, Jenks and Ezzell are all enrolled in the PRHS Early Childhood Development class, associated with Bearkittens, which is a preschool led by students at PRHS. Both Jenks and Ezzell have taken the class for two years while Pafumi has been enrolled for three.
The class itself entails planning lessons daily, class projects such as a child study report, which involved observing a kid and learning about developmental factors, working with kids, going into the classroom, and recapping that week by talking about kids who need extra help as well as understanding and analyzing the children themselves.
Inside the tan portables, the walls are adorned with colorful shapes, letters, and numbers, with small tables and chairs about the room. Kids rush in, ready for a day of learning under the guidance of PRHS students and teachers. As they settle into the class, the girls begin to interact with the students. After having planned six or seven lessons for the preschool students, they teach the kids, hoping to influence growth and development of basic skills.
Each of the girls are generally assigned to be directors at the preschool. As the class progresses, they monitor the class, drifting from one workstation to another, assisting their peers and students as needed. During “circle time activities” they often lead the group.
“Each day is completely different,” said Pafumi, who has won three SkillsUSA awards.
Matthysse, who has successfully led her students to receive a total of about 37 medals at SkillsUSA, specifically coaxed Pafumi to compete her sophomore year.
“It was clear Taylor had the potential to be quite successful in SkillsUSA early on, so I really encouraged her,” she said.
Pafumi has competed every year since. She prepared for this specific competition for about four months. Being a bearkitten herself, she knew she wanted to do Bearkittens when it came time to choose sophomore classes. This decision has led to the expansion of her career choices.
“My goal is to become a pediatrician. My experience in ECE will be beneficial to me in that career when I’m working with the children. I’ll have a better understanding of how to handle different behaviors and personalities as well as communicating well with the children and parents,” Pafumi said.