Full-day Kindergarten: Early childhood educators reflect on their first year in the classroom

Matthew Romain, Inessa Petersen

Designated early childhood educators (DECEs) are the newest addition to the ETFO family. In 2009 when the Ontario government announced its intention to implement the full-day kindergarten program, ETFO moved to become the bargaining agent for DECEs. Today ETFO represents DECEs in 10 Ontario public and separate school boards. The number of DECE members will increase over the next two years: introduced in 600 schools in 2010, full-day kindergarten will be offered in all Ontario elementary schools by 2014. In the new program, certified teachers and DECEs work side by side to implement a play-based curriculum. We asked some DECE members to share their thoughts about being a part of the inaugural Early Learning Kindergarten (ELK) program.

The value of full-day kindergarten

DECEs believe that every child should have the opportunity to experience the play-based learn ing of full-day kindergarten:

“It allows children to be in an environment with many opportunities; a chance for children to experience and be exposed to things they may not otherwise have the chance to. Children build on their social/emotional skills and learn to self-regulate in a group setting.”  — Rayna Barrese, president, Durham DECE Local

“Some children do not attend any sort of formal education environment prior to kindergarten, and the full-day kindergarten structure allows a duo of highly trained professionals to help not only the child, but each other with easing children into a lifelong learning routine.”  — Amy Rasmussen,  president, Halton DECE Local.

“It is valuable for children. The reason includes improvements in reading, writing, creativity, social development, work habits, motor skills. It also makes the transition to grade 1 easier.”  — Diego Olmedo, vice-president, Toronto DECE Local.

The growth of our children

DECEs explained how excited they were to witness their students’ development:

“We continually saw an increase in the children’s eagerness to come to school, as well as their enjoyment while learning through play. Children were developing a love for learning and were motivated to learn. Their sense of accomplishment never ceased to amaze us when they would realize they could recognize a word in a book. Instead of being sat at tables and issued sheets to learn from, they were given time to play and learn in a concrete, not abstract way. So when they realized they were learning through those experiences, that was the biggest accomplishment for us.”  — Mandi Judd , president, Simcoe County DECE Local.

“Children who otherwise were very intimidated and unsure are confident and look forward to coming to school each day. Children are very inquisitive and being in a full-day kindergarten program they have the chance to fully engage and explore extensively.”
— Rayna Barrese

New challenges

The introduction of full-day kindergarten has not been without challenges for both the teacher and the DECE—from teaching with another professional educator for the first time to following a brand-new curriculum in a new program.

“A new program, new curriculum, and new working areas were all stepping stones that needed to be navigated with


ETFO president Sam Hammond

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8 kindergarten students sitting on bench

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