Orientation program eases teacher transition


Iowa State is offering a new staff orientation program to give professional development to child care center staff, directors and supervisors all over the state of Iowa.

Carlea Schuler

Iowa State is offering a new staff orientation program to assist in professional development for child care center staff, directors and supervisors all over the state of Iowa.

Supervisors and directors can attend the new staff orientation, and take the information back to their child care centers and pass the information on to new childhood teachers. This is the tenth year the program has been in operation.

Lesia Oesterreich is the program’s director and a human sciences extension and outreach specialist for human development and family studies.

“The main goal is to provide training to new teachers from their first day of employment to help them be successful,” Oesterreich said.

The program is designed primarily for childcare centers, but preschool programs use it, too. It gives new teachers who are just beginning a childcare program some basic training on how to supervise children, how to keep them safe and how to do activities with them.

“New teachers can be overwhelmed,” Oesterreich said, “and we find that giving them some training from day one makes a real difference in helping them to be successful.”

The new staff orientation has two training programs. One is an online training for child care center directors or preschool program directors where the directors learn to work with new teachers.

Melissa Vobr is the director of Kessel Kids in Cresco, Iowa. She went through the new staff orientation when she was a new teacher, and now she advises new staff when they go through it.

Vobr said the new staff orientation touches on a broad range of topics in the realm of childcare from welcoming a new child into the group to communication with parents and behavioral management.

“It is a great introduction to the childcare setting,” Vobr said.

There are 30 video-based lessons in the curriculum. The videos are about good practice with children, such as how to supervise them, how to help children wash their hands, how to talk with children to help them learn and how to do age-appropriate activities with children.

After the teachers go through the video portion of the orientation, they fill out a portfolio that has activities for them to do.

“The activities might be something simple like a treasure hunt at their center to find where the first aid kit is,” Oesterreich said. “Some of the activities are quite fun.”

Oesterreich also said that some of the activities are specific to the children in the classroom. For example, the new teacher might go observe a child to see what their interests are and do an activity with them. This way, they learn what stage of development the child is in.

“The new teachers can see both sides of it,” Vobr said. “They get to experience the hands-on part as well as the instructional part of childcare.”

After new teachers complete the activities, they write a reflection on what they have learned. The director of the child care center or preschool then goes over the 30 lessons and the experiences from the orientation with the new staff member.

The new teachers orientation portfolio is then sent to Iowa State to be reviewed. The reviewers give feedback to the teachers.

“We really try to recruit former directors to be reviewers because they have experience with new teachers, and we find them to be a really good fit,” Oesterreich said.

After the portfolio has been reviewed and passed, the teacher is given a certificate that gives them credit in the human services licensing professional development requirements.

The new staff orientation program was originally developed by Penn State University, but Iowa State adopted it. Penn State had the orientation only for teachers, but ISU adapted it to a child care development requirement, and then added the directors’ online training, Oesterreich said.

“It’s a great program because it lets you know where new staff is in their understanding of different concepts,” Vobr said. “It is a very beneficial program to our center, and I greatly appreciate it.”