The preschool room at Rockwood Summit High
has been completely rearranged since Maya Wijeweera was a student there more than a decade ago. Still, the first time she went back into the room as a Rockwood Summit student for her Child Development class this fall, she couldn't help but feel a sense of déjà vu.
"It was weird to see how small the chairs are," said Wijeweera, a senior. "Everything is so tiny, but it seemed so big back then."
Wijeweera is one of 16 students in Emily McKnight's Child Development 2 class at Rockwood Summit this semester. Child Development is a two-semester course that is available at all four Rockwood School District high schools. In the second semester, students venture into the preschool rooms at the high schools and work with 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds.
Wijeweera is the only one at Rockwood Summit who is teaching where she used to learn.
"It's interesting to watch how they behave not only with each other, but with us," Wijeweera said. "It's how honest they are. It's super fun to talk to them."
It's always an exciting occasion when the high schoolers – "the big kids" – visit the classroom, Rockwood Summit preschool teacher Jessica Weick said. It's a badge of honor when the little kids get to play a game, read or show off their artistic prowess for the big kids.
That's how it was when Wijeweera was a preschooler as well, according to her teacher, Kerri Barth, who used to hold Weick's position at Rockwood Summit.
"Maya was kind, sweet, caring and a thoughtful little girl. She was always one of those kids that wanted to help the other ones," said Barth, who now teaches at the Clarkson Valley Early Childhood Center. "This is an excellent experience for the students to see what goes on in a classroom and how the preschoolers are behaving. It's definitely an awesome tool that we have here."
Students interested in entering Child Development 2 at all four high schools go through an application process that weighs factors such as their grade in Child Development 1, teacher recommendations and attendance.
By the time they first enter the preschool classroom, they're eager and ready to learn.
"This is a hands-on experience for them, and it's very valuable. My first class in college was something like this, going into a room," Weick said. "It's neat to see the interactions, and it's really helped some of my kids who are shy or need extra support to have a mentor or buddy to help sort those feelings out."
Wijeweera is taking the class to further explore whether she'd be interested in a field such as child psychology or social work when she goes to Colorado State University next year.
She recently experienced a first: one of her preschoolers made a painting just for her. Barth said Wijeweera used to give her pictures all the time.
"She looks exactly the same, just way taller than me now," Barth said. "It's so wonderful to see. I'm so proud of her."