"The children are marvelous and their hearts are so big...they learn to look at each other through children's eyes."
Buckingham, who has been teaching for 30 years (nine years with the Begindergarten class - 5 year olds) shared that with the young age group, diversity is discussed in a different manner that works well for them.
At the beginning of the school year they discuss in class how each of them is different and how each of them is the same - some like dogs, some like cats, come have brown hair, some have blonde.
"We keep it open-ended and through our talks, they figure it out on their own" that they may have different color skin but we tell them. And when they recognize it, "we say that's ok. That makes us different. It's fun to sit back and watch them."
Rachel Lucas, teacher of the B4-kindergarten class (4 year olds), sees the students before Buckingham.
"We figure out what works for each family," she said.
The languages may be different, but somehow the students are able to communicate with each other. While the non-speaking English children in the class are taught English, they are also teaching the English speaking children some of their language. What a wonderful experience for all of them! Lucas explained that sign language has been the manner of communication for one of her students as he becomes familiar with the English language - and the other students are picking up on that as well.
"They all want to be friends and want to work together. Our goal is to be a team.
Buckingham said the SL District has been supportive of the situation and has allowed the early childhood teachers the opportunity to take part in ESL classes - and to learn new strategies for communicating with the students and the parents.
At this young age, she said, the students are "like sponges" and "pick things up so quickly." The school year goes fast and the teachers work to share the new language with the students, but all students learn differently. But no matter how much of the English language they learn in their young classes, they are ahead of the game when they reach kindergarten.
Not only is there a great concern for the students, but there is a concern for the families as well.
"We want the parents to have the same comfort level as their kids," Buckingham said.
The parents are invited often to visit their students in the classrooms.
Principal Kellie Anderson commented, "We have tremendous parent support and that tells us how much they love their kids and support them and want to be a part of their learning experience."
She added, "We have students from here and there and everywhere but the beauty of it is they are from Storm Lake now. We have a responsibility to teach them. We want to celebrate all families. We are in this together - we are living, learning and growing together."