State superintendent visits early childhood center


By Dan Pennington - dan@durantdemocrat.com



Pre-school student McKinley interacts with the electronic image projected on the wall with her teacher Mrs. James. On left, Superintendent Duane Merideth looks on as State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister sits with students on her visit to the Robert E. Lee Early Learning Center Monday


Dan Pennington | Durant Democrat

Robert E. Lee Early Childhood Center is a model facility for education, unique in the state for pre school students. DISD Superintendent Duane Merideth praised his staff for their team effort in making the project a success.


Dan Pennington | Durant Democrat

Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister toured the Robert E. Lee Early Childhood Center Monday morning.

She traveled from Oklahoma City to Durant to see and visit with the children attending the center.

The state school superintendent went room to room talking with teachers and students.

She sat with students on the floor, on the children’s level, and observed, firsthand, how they learn.

Hofmeister interacted with students in each classroom and on the playground.

Delinda Knox, Public Information Officer for DISD said, “She went the entire length of the jungle gym. She had children all around her and she even slid down the slide with them.”

The former Robert E. Lee Elementary is now Robert E. Lee Early Childhood Center, a model program, to educate the younger children, before the elementary school level.

The pre-kindergarten learning center is unique in it’s approach to the education of younger students in the district.

The classrooms have interactive wall and floor projection displays that immerse the child in learning, while they experience it as fun.

When not learning in the classroom, the students of the center play on indoor as well as traditional outdoor playgrounds.

Durant Public School Superintendent Duane Merideth, Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year Jon Hazell, State Representative Dustin Roberts all were on hand to observe Hofmeister’s interaction with students.

Merideth has watched his entire staff across the district come together to accomplish great things this past year.

He said Monday morning, “We are honored to have her visit and we’re very excited she is here. She is always welcome in Durant.”

Hofmeister has a full schedule on this visit.

She has speaking engagements in the area also, but she said she’s excited to observe children at the Durant learning center.

This isn’t the first time she’s visited Durant, but this is her first time to see the changes at the former elementary school.

While at Robert E. Lee, Hofmeister praised teachers for their teaching styles and methods.

She was impressed also by the care and compassion the teachers provide for their students at the center.

Hofmeister said, “One of our main goals in the state is to ensure that we have our early learners have a strong foundation in reading and math. We are here today to see an outstanding model of pre school education. This is exciting because this is the first year that all pre schools have been combined in one location. We love what we see. They are doing a great job.”

When Hofmeister left the center, she went directly to her speaking engagement as at the Durant Lion’s Club noon meeting.

Hofmeister said, “I’m also here to visit with the Native American Council that’s meeting at the Choctaw Casino. They have a couple of days they gather from all over the state. I spoke with them, and I’ll be speaking with other community leaders on this visit. Then I’ll go observe the after school program at Caney.”

Superintendent Merideth has several reasons to be proud of educators in Durant.

The state superintendent’s visit showcases just one of the many accomplishments of the Durant school district.

Under his leadership, Merideth has a model school for early education of students.

His school district provided the state teacher of the year for the entire state, and he has a staff that excels in their various roles in education.

This visit by the leader of education in the state, gives him a chance to stand back and let his staff shine, as he and his leader observe them in action.

Hofmeister said, “This is so wonderful to be at the home of our state teacher of the year Jon Hazell who is another outstanding model of great success in education.”

Hazell praised the leader in state education.

He said, “Here’s what I like about her. She legitimately goes out and sees what goes on. She not only talks to people, she listens too. She pays attention and bases her decisions on what she sees and hears from everyday educators. She is not just up there deciding what everybody needs to do. She does the best job of anybody I’ve ever seen. She’s on the road all the time. She literally has my admiration as much as anyone I’ve ever worked for.”

District 21 State Representative Dustin Roberts is also one who observes and listens to the people.

He didn’t want to miss this opportunity and Hofmeiser’s visit to Robert E. Lee.

Roberts watched the education leader’s interaction with the children and said, “Anytime you can get the State Superintendent to your district and go through your school, and especially to see what Superintendent Merideth has done here, it’s amazing to be able to show off and be proud of the school. There’s not a facility like Robert E. Lee in the entire state. I just don’t think you’ll see this anywhere else. They’ve done a great job and to be able to showcase this to the state superintendent is wonderful. This school is a great model and an example for the entire state.”

Like a machine where all the parts work together in unison, Merideth says his staff worked together to make this happen.

Merideth said, “Jan Chaffin the Principal here, and our great staff have made this work perfectly.

The thought process of putting all this together took many, many months. I looked at some concepts of playgrounds in the past, but I never imagined what we would have right here at Robert E. Lee. It took the brilliant minds of a lot of people to put this together. It was absolutely, one hundred percent a team effort.”

He said the individual efforts of key staff members were also instrumental to the project.

Merideth continued, “Our Assistant Superintendent Kenny Chaffin, Jan Chaffin, Principal at here at Robert E. Lee, our Public Information Officer Delinda Knox, Beth Bean our Elementary Education Curriculum Coordinator, and Andi Hudson one of our Technology Directors, it was a lot of great people that made this happen. This took the creative efforts of our staff, again, it was a team effort.”

Contact Dan Pennington at (580) 634-2162 or dan@durantdemocrat.com

Pre-school student McKinley interacts with the electronic image projected on the wall with her teacher Mrs. James. On left, Superintendent Duane Merideth looks on as State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister sits with students on her visit to the Robert E. Lee Early Learning Center Monday
http://www.durantdemocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_DSC_2168Visit-2.jpgPre-school student McKinley interacts with the electronic image projected on the wall with her teacher Mrs. James. On left, Superintendent Duane Merideth looks on as State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister sits with students on her visit to the Robert E. Lee Early Learning Center Monday Dan Pennington | Durant Democrat

Robert E. Lee Early Childhood Center is a model facility for education, unique in the state for pre school students. DISD Superintendent Duane Merideth praised his staff for their team effort in making the project a success.
http://www.durantdemocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_DSC_2148a-2.jpgRobert E. Lee Early Childhood Center is a model facility for education, unique in the state for pre school students. DISD Superintendent Duane Merideth praised his staff for their team effort in making the project a success. Dan Pennington | Durant Democrat

By Dan Pennington

dan@durantdemocrat.com

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