Stephanie Rangel – Pre-Pre-K and Pre-K Teacher
In was her care as a mother that initially brought Stephanie Rangel into the classroom, as a volunteer aide. She soon discovered that teaching was a career that inspires, challenges and rewards her. Now, Rangel teaches the Dell City School's 3- and 4-year-olds, our pre-pre-K and pre-K classes. There's no mistaking that it's a great fit.
“I love this age group,” Rangel said. “They have so much energy. Some of my students are already beginning to read – to put words together, to sound them out. When you hear a student say 'Miss! Miss! I got it!' – that's so joyful.”
Rangel has eight students in her classroom this year – three 3-year-olds and five 4-year-olds. Her students are at different stages of development – the three-year-olds are “still babies” in many ways, Rangel said. Rangel has one period each day when she works just with those pre-pre-K kids, focusing on basics – holding pencils, using scissors. But she's also able to include them in what she's doing with her pre-K students.
The top priority, Rangel said, is to prepare the students to begin reading.
“My main goal is to teach them to identify and recognize the letters, and the sounds that go with them,” she said, “and the numbers as well. But we also have science and social studies – they have a little bit of everything.”
Rangel's students recently learned about the lifecycle of butterflies, and about recycling, in science class – and hands-on activities are the name of the game. Arts and crafts projects are a part of all the lessons.
Rangel tests her students every three weeks. And she meets regularly with parents to discuss their children's progress.
Rangel said she's always delighted by her students' enthusiasm – and by how quickly they learn and grow. Rangel took up the teaching position in the fall – and at that time, her students could recite the “ABCs,” but couldn't necessarily identify the letters. Now, through games and lessons during the year, the students know the letters and their sounds. Many can write their names – they're well prepared for kindergarten.
One of those students is Rangel's own son, Matthew. It was concern for Matthew that brought Rangel – who herself graduated from Dell City High in 2019 – back on to the campus.
When Matthew began pre-pre-K last year, Rangel wasn't ready to be apart from him – and she wanted to be there to support him. She began volunteering, helping Ms. Elsa McCray, who was teaching pre-pre-K, pre-K and kindergarten.
Rangel was on campus every day, and Melanie Gentry, the school's business manager, suggested she might become a substitute teacher. Rangel said she hadn't considered employment with the district.
“If Ms. Gentry hadn't have told me that,” Rangel said, “I would still be volunteering!”
Rangel did some subbing last year. Then she became Ms. McCray's aide. Then, early in this school year, Principal Carlos A. Contreras gave Rangel the opportunity to teach the 3- and 4-year-olds. Rangel said yes, and Ms. McCray became the kindergarten teacher.
The shift from being an aide to a lead teacher was a big one, Rangel said. As an aide, she didn't take the job home with her. Now her work continues well after the end of the school day – with lesson planning, reviewing students' work, communicating with parents and families, and more. But Rangel said she welcomes the challenge.
“It was a job before,” she said. “Now it's not just a job. And I love it.”
Rangel is using a curriculum called Frog Street in her classroom, and she said she's gotten valuable advice and support from Dell City first- and second-grade teacher Karen Torres, who taught pre-K for years. And even as she's working, and raising her son, Rangel is taking courses online to be certified in early childhood education.
Rangel doesn't want to stop there. She plans to begin pursuing an associate's degree next year, and then to work toward a bachelor's degree. Balancing full-time work, parenting and college will be daunting – but Rangel said she's up to the task.
“It will be a lot,” she said. “But I can do it – I'm young.”
Rangel has lived in Dell City since her own preschool years. Her parents are here, and work at the Dell City School has become something of a family affair – Rangel's sister, Paloma Medina, is also on staff. And while Matthew started her connection with the classroom, Rangel said she knows she's found her spot. She wants to continue working with the youngest Cougar students.