meet the faculty

Shirley Esau

Readying the
next generation

By Carlye Malchuk Dash



“My goal is to show each student that as a teacher, they can change a child’s life. They hold the keys to unlocking that child’s potential,” says Esau. “I have, as a kid, experienced good and bad teachers and I want everyone to have the best. If that’s my desire, then I need to make sure the next generation of teachers is the best.”

The first five years

Esau is currently principal and special projects director at Kingsburg Elementary School in California. She feels her greatest asset as a faculty member is the wealth of classroom and administrator experience she brings to her University of Phoenix students. With research showing that many teachers don’t make it past the first five years in the profession, Esau says having an experienced teacher as a mentor can make the difference between one continuing in the field and not.

“I really do believe that in those first five years, if teachers have good mentors behind them they will continue to teach,” she says. “Students need to know that everything you learn from a book is not always reality.”

Kindergarten readiness

Esau has also been hard at work helping to shape how students will begin their school careers in California. Last year The Kindergarten Readiness Act was signed into law in the state, changing the cut-off age for entrance into kindergarten from December 2 to September 1. The law also provides one year of Transitional Kindergarten (TK) for children with fall birthdays. The TK program combines the developmental foundations of preschool with the educational standards of kindergarten.

Before the bill was finalized, Esau was approached by her superintendent in terms of running a TK pilot project. Kingsburg Elementary consists of about 275 kindergarten students and 90 preschoolers. Partnered with one of her teachers, Esau began developing a curriculum for the class and then approached parents about enrolling
their children.

While Esau never doubted there was a need for this extra development time for children with fall birthdays, she was surprised at how successful the class turned out to be. “I thought the children would have this great background and they’d be prepared for kindergarten. In the end what happened this year was our Transitional Kindergarteners were reading and writing,” she says.

Giving back to the community

Esau balances her busy professional life with a full personal one. The married mother of three and grandmother of six never stops sharing her knowledge, whether it be her monthly baking days with the grandkids or teaching her fellow administrators how to make jam. “I make jam once a year and I give it out as gifts all year long,” she says. Her most recent jam day target was 150 jars.

A board member with her local Kiwanis Club, Esau enjoys helping with fundraisers and community service projects like alley and highway clean ups. She is also responsible for the club’s scholarship program, and works with her local high school to ensure the right students are matched up with the funds.

Esau believes in being fully engaged and involved in life and hopes other faculty reading her story do the same. “I believe that we all have a responsibility to share what we learn with other people so that they can become better,” she says.

“I believe that we all have a responsibility to share what we learn with other people so that they can become better,” explains faculty member Shirley Esau.


Wearing three hats

Developing the TK program has morphed into an additional job as Esau takes on speaking engagements around the state to explain the program to school boards and organizations. She has developed many partnerships, is part of the Packard Foundation work group and the Fresno County Office of Education Learning Community for Transitional Kindergarten and was part of discussions that helped finalize the bill last year.

Due to the work involved with running the TK program and Kingsburg Elementary, Esau recently stepped down as lead faculty at University of Phoenix’s River Park Learning Center in Fresno, but she continues in her role as University faculty. “I feel like [my students] really need to know what’s happening with these new laws and I want to share that information with them.”


What is Transitional Kindergarten?

For more information about the Transitional Kindergarten program and Shirley Esau’s work, please view the following resources:

Gov. Schwarzenegger signs Kindergarten Readiness Act
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday signed Senate Bill 1381 (Simitian, Steinberg), the Kindergarten Readiness Act, enacting a historic reform to elementary education that will help ensure that 120,000 more children each year are better prepared to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. (Read the full release here.)

California bill pushes back the kindergarten entry date
The Washington Post
By Tracy Correa, Sunday, October 31, 2010
FRESNO, CALIF-Monica Hoenig could have enrolled her 4-year-old son, Ryan, in kindergarten this year, but she was concerned that his lack of maturity would cause him to lag academically – not only now, but in years to come. So she signed him up for a pilot transitional kindergarten program at Washington School, a charter school in Kingsburg, Calif.

Kindergarten Entrance Age / Transitional Kindergarten Video
‘0 to 5 in 30 Minutes!’ is a product of Valley Public Television. The program is sponsored by First 5 Fresno County and First 5 Tulare County.

Is your child ready for kindergarten? We’ll tell you about a new law that affects when he or she starts school. Plus, we’ll tell you about Transitional Kindergarten.

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