December 8, 2022

A Letter from Guest Writer Nikki Sumpter, Junior Kindergarten Teacher

Dear Harbor Families,

Yesterday morning at drop off, a parent of a Junior Kindergartener told me they didn’t want to go to sleep last night and when the parent asked why, she replied matter of factly, “because I’m nocturnal” (JK has been exploring nocturnal and diurnal animals as part of our mammal unit).  These are the moments that make teaching JK so rewarding. 

When I first started at Harbor as the preschool 4s teacher, I heard so much about the Junior Kindergarten program as a unique program that isn’t found in many other schools. But to be honest, I didn't fully understand what it was all about. I knew that some of my students would go to JK based on their birthdays, and some would go because they “need more time.” Now, those three words are something that I hear often during admission season when meeting prospective students and their families, who are looking for a program that will provide their child with the gift of time - another year of learning and growth, with an academic focus but not yet at the level of Kindergarten. 

So what is so special about Junior Kindergarten at Harbor? JK gives students the gift of time before the big transition to kindergarten. More time to develop confidence and independence, more time to become motivated and excited about learning, and more time to hone pre-reading and foundational math skills. Each day in JK, while students spend time working on phonological awareness, handwriting and fine motor skills, and developing number sense, we spend just as much time focusing on social-emotional skills. My goal is for each child to leave Junior Kindergarten able to solve problems, speak up for themselves and others, follow a classroom routine, and build positive friendships.   

One of my most memorable JK moments happened last spring, as we were exploring our human body unit. During a transition time when students were looking at books independently, I looked over and one of our students  (now in Kindergarten at Harbor) had a circle of his peers around him, and he was looking at a human body book and playing trivia. As each child took a turn answering his questions, he excitedly shouted “DING DING DING CORRECT!” This is a perfect example of a day in JK. Students support each other, take ownership of their learning, and express interest and enthusiasm about what they are learning.

I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to teach this unique program and experience firsthand the “magic of JK” -although I have to admit, in my first year as the JK teacher I was nervous; I had some pretty big shoes to fill of the amazing past JK teachers. Over the years, the JK experience has come to be known as “the JK way”, a term coined by Betsy Seery and Jamie Danielson, who taught the class for a number of years. 

Ask any parent of a child who went through our Junior Kindergarten program, and they will tell you it was the best gift they could give their child. It truly is a launching pad for a successful transition to elementary school and beyond. 

If you are a preschool parent, you may be thinking about the JK experience for your child. I’m happy to share more about “the JK way” as the time approaches to make that decision for your child. And, if you know someone who is looking for a way to provide “the gift of time” during this very special year, please don’t hesitate to send them our way!


Nikki Sumpter
Junior Kindergarten Teacher

Harbor School