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Early childhood education is important, director says

Kari Jo Fore is the director of Bethel Highlands Preschool and believes passionately in the value of early childhood education. Star Observer photo by Meg Heaton

Kari Jo Fore is passionate about early childhood education. She thinks everyone should be.

As director of Bethel Highlands preschool program, she sees the impact early education has on children every day and knows it continues to impact children throughout their lives right into adulthood. 

In addition to Bethel Highlands, Fore is a member of the Success By 6 executive board, a writer for Family First Newspaper, a grant reviewer for the Office of Head Start, and is “involved in other activities that allow me to live out my passion for early childhood education.”

Fore says there is no question that early childhood education makes a difference.

“We are the teachers that are rarely remembered in commencement speeches, but we are the teachers that inspire the attitude toward learning that lasts a lifetime,” Fore said. “We are the teachers that are paid the least, but are rich in relationships with not only the child but the whole family. We are the teachers that through intentional experiences guide the learning of skills; such as resolving conflict, developing first friendships, regulating and understanding emotions, effectively communicating, becoming responsible and independent, and other skills absolutely necessary for functioning in society regardless of career choice or test score.”

Fore points to research that like the two 40-year studies, The Perry Preschool Project and the Abecedarian Project, that show children who have access to quality early childhood education earned 42 percent higher wages, were 26 percent  less likely to collect government assistance,  46 percent less likely to spend time in prison, spent an average of 1.3 fewer years in special education services, and had a 44 percent higher graduation rate.

Fore, who has 24 years of experience, nine at Bethel Highlands, says there are real little people behind those numbers.

A quality preschool program goes way beyond daycare, she said: “For many children, it is their first experience with a caregiver outside of their family. They learn to trust a consistent caregiver. And preschool teachers are the frontline for children entering the education system.”

Fore says the issues with preschool children run the gamut of the developmental steps they experience at that age. Teachers are especially trained to observe those developments, to foster growth and to note any delays.

Fore says the social experience in preschool is important to any child’s long term success in school. Bethel’s curriculum is designed for specific ages. At 3, the emphasis is on eye contact and engaging the children in conversation. At 3-5 years old, they help students identify their emotions, develop friendships and learn to resolve conflicts.

“All emotions are good. We just need to understand what they are and how to work with them in a supportive culture,” she said.

Fore says learning through play is most effective with preschoolers. She calls it “intentional play” that includes guided questions, a variety of quality materials and learning tools, and an environment that promotes social skills.

Fore and her colleagues also stress the importance of communicating what is happening at school with parents and families. To that end they keep families informed on a weekly basis of what their children are doing. They also send a newsletter regularly that includes information about child development.   

The National Week of the Young Child is April 10-16. Fore says area businesses and schools in support of families with young children will be offering services, goods and information throughout the week.

The development of the brain, physical ability, emotional understanding and more are most significant between ages 0-5 than at any other time in a person’s life, according to Fore. “By supporting young children and their families with quality programs, our impact is far-reaching.

“Imagine a community filled with advocates for our youngest learners, who truly understand the importance of early education, and the benefit it yields for everyone. One of my favorite quotes is from John F. Kennedy, ‘When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.’ At this critical time, Hudson has the opportunity to be a model in education -- education inclusive of ALL children at all ages.”

 For more information or to contact Fore call (715) 381-8254, ext. 401, or online at