The first few years of a child’s life are some of the most crucial, and it’s one of the reasons why a Lethbridge teacher is devoting her life’s work to brain development in young children.
Lynn Wytrykusz, a teacher in the early education program at Westminster Elementary School, is being recognized with the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence for her work building cognitive, social and emotional skills in her three- to four-year-old students.
“I get to come to work everyday and just be filled with true joy, from the work that I do with the children each and everyday, and I think to just be recognized on top of that is just so overwhelming,” Wytrykusz said.
It’s been a couple of years now since Wytrykusz has been implementing the Building Brains and Futures program in her classroom — which was developed by Robbin Gibb, a neuroscience professor at the University of Lethbridge.
The program utilizes 10 teaching games to enhance impulse control, flexible thinking and other functioning skills in children.
These strategies are now being shared with educators across the province.
“It’s simple games like Red Light, Green Light, Simon Says; games that we grew up playing. We can now say we know those games are good for our brains to build a strong foundation for executive function skills,” Wytrykusz explained.
“Going into this, our goal is that children will be more successful in their school, and as a result of that, they’re going to be more successful in their lives. So we’re really looking down the road in 20 years,” Gibb said.
Westminster principal Angela Wilde says the curriculum is easy enough for parents to partake in as well.
“Not only has Lynn taken research and turned it into practical strategies for children, she has also been educating our parent community about these strategies and these brain strengthening practices,” stated Wilde.
According to the school, Wytrykusz’s classroom includes students from diverse backgrounds, some of the children identify as refugees, or come from economically-disadvantaged circumstances.
She also has children under her care who have with developmental delays and behavioural issues.
When it comes to addressing hurdles while teaching, Wytrykusz says paying close attention to each child’s strengths, needs and interests can help them grow significantly.
Wytrykusz is also a big believer in boosting self-confidence while promoting creativity and self-expression in her students.