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Local teacher named national PBS KIDS Early Learning Champion

Tara Haynes, a teacher at Little School, a preschool program run by the Pine Mountain Settlement School in Bledsoe, has been named a national PBS KIDS Early Learning Champion.

The new award program, sponsored by PBS KIDS, recognizes passionate educators from across the country who work with young children, from infants to second graders.

Open Tuesday through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Little School offers free, hands-on preschool education to children living in Harlan County.

Haynes serves as the lead teacher at Little School and also helped play a role in the preschool’s recent re-launch and development of its curriculum.

“Education is important, especially in the mountains of eastern Kentucky,” she said. “Our children need to know at all times they have unlimited potential, even if they have limited resources.”

Nominated for the award by Pine Mountain Settlement School’s executive director, Geoff Marietta, Haynes is one of 17 honorees from across the country named in this year’s inaugural class of Early Learning Champions.

The honorees were each recognized in an awards ceremony at the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) Conference in Washington, D.C. in November and participated in a PBS KIDS Early Learning Champions Summit at the conference.

“Tara’s work at Little School is helping to prepare these young children for kindergarten and well beyond, and we’re proud of her accomplishment,” said Tonya Crum, KET senior director of education. “For the past few years, KET’s Early Childhood Education staff has worked with Pine Mountain Settlement School to offer free resources, camps, trainings and so much more.”

KET offers these free resources through a Ready To Learn grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“My curriculum is based on kindergarten-readiness,” Haynes said. “It’s the simple things I need to teach them, like how to hold a book properly, how to hold a pencil, waiting your turn. The mountains naturally isolate us from our neighbors, and it can be more difficult for the kids who live here to interact with other kids. Little School gives them that chance – and that makes all the difference when they head into kindergarten.”