For the past two months, preschool students in Sevier School District have been in the same situation as other students — trying to learn from home.
“We’ve had a Google classroom and sent home packets and videos,” said Julie Strate, one of the teachers at the district’s Richfield preschool.
While the efforts have allowed for learning to continue, there is no substitute for teaching face-to-face, Strate said.
“We miss them,” said Valerie Christensen, another teacher.
In an effort to congratulate students for their efforts and the fact that they will be moving on to kindergarten, the Richfield preschool hosted a drive-through graduation Monday.
Teachers handed students completion certificates as their parents drove through the bus loading area of the school. Banners, streamers and bubbles greeted students as they went through the line.
The graduation was also one of the last events Diana Jensen will get to participate in as a preschool teacher for the district as she is retiring at the end of this year.
“I’ve been here since they first put this building in place,” Jensen said. She started at the school on a part-time basis under Janet Nielsen, the first director of the district’s preschool.
“We’ve had three amazing directors since I’ve been here,” Jensen said. She said Nielsen, Dawnanna Topham and Madilyn Lee have served as the directors of the program.
When she started, part of Jensen’s job was to work half a day, including time riding on the bus with students who had severe disabilities.
Jensen attended Southern Utah University and Utah State University to earn the degrees and certifications she needed to work with special needs students.
In the decades she has been teaching, Jensen has seen the preschool expand its offerings. At first it was focused on those with disabilities, along with a small group of paid students.
Monday more than 100 students were expected to go through the drive-through graduation.
While the district preschool has expanded its offerings, Jensen said the students with developmental delays are some of the most rewarding to work with.
“Seeing the progress they make is rewarding,” Jensen said. “The little steps are what you watch for.”
Retirement will be a big adjustment, according to Jensen.
“I’m going to miss the people who work here,” Jensen said. “I’ll also miss being able to interact with the kids.”
Jensen and her husband, Hal, live in Aurora. They have four sons and 13 grandchildren.