By Dr. Felicia Thomas

Dr. Felicia Thomas, Director of Early Childhood for Jackson Public Schools

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock.” When I think about the importance and impact of early childhood education, I let Matthew 7:24 guide me.  You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. Pre-K is an important and influential period in a young person’s life.  Pre-K is the rock foundation that helps prepare children to succeed over the next 13 years of school. As the director of early childhood for Jackson Public Schools, I help run the JPS-Hinds Pre-K Collaborative, a partnership between early childhood educators throughout the district. The Collaborative was launched last year to improve the kindergarten readiness and social development of JPS scholars. We aim to increase the number of Pre-K seats available throughout the Jackson Public School District. The program exposes scholars to a rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum paired with high-quality instruction that ensures every scholar gets a well-rounded foundational education. My journey to becoming an educator began before I could even walk. My grandmother never had the opportunity to learn to read, so it was incredibly important for me to learn to read. She instilled education as a fundamental value and worked hard to ensure that her grandchild had the opportunity to receive a good education. As my children were growing up, we always told them that we must put God first, and everything else will fall into place. We applied this same philosophy to education. If you prioritize your education, opportunities will follow. This all starts in Pre-K classrooms. Both children and their parents must understand the importance of a Pre-K education and what it looks like. The state of Mississippi does not mandate Pre-K education, so it is up to educators to create a sense of urgency in our districts to ensure that there are no gaps in learning and that the scholars are equipped to move on to primary grades. According to a report by the Learning Policy Institute, students who attend high-quality Pre-K programs are more prepared for school and are less likely to be held back in elementary school compared to children who do not participate in these programs. When building a solid education foundation, my first-grade teacher Mrs. Hicks comes to mind.  She inspired me to become an educator because she was a profound teacher and mentor. She was strict yet kind, detail-oriented, and caring. This was the kind of educator I aspired to be. Mrs. Hicks had compassion for her kids, and her classroom was always loving and nurturing. In my role, I mentor educators across the district so they can model the characteristics of a great educator Mrs. Hicks embodied all those years ago. We work closely to create joyful, enriching learning environments for every Pre-K student in Jackson. The Pre-K Collaborative is open for registration at schools throughout Jackson without an appointment.  Registration at the Enrollment Services Department located at Poindexter is also available for our special services. To register, parents need their child’s original birth certificate, shot records, and two proofs of residency. Pre-K lays the foundation for a child’s K-12 education. We must ensure that our youth have a strong foundation and start school so that they will have a portrait of success at the end of the 12th grade. For more information about Pre-K registration, visit: