Early Childhood (Pre-K and K)

The early childhood program (Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten) establishes a solid foundation for skills that are necessary in order to be successful in the succeeding years of school. Students learn the value of getting along with others as they develop a desire to learn, use their natural curiosity to explore the world around them, hone critical academic skills, and increase their confidence in their own individual abilities.


The Pre-Kindergarten program is designed to address the developmental differences and learning preferences of the emergent learner.  Planned learning activities and materials appropriate to the child’s developmental age are combined with a positive, warm, healthy, and safe environment to give children an opportunity to gain self-confidence and master skills.

Pre-Kindergarten students participate in language arts, math, science, creative art, dramatic play, music, and computers through learning centers and group activities.  The curriculum is presented in thematic units that are designed to promote optimal physical, mental, social, and spiritual growth in each child. Classroom instruction meets state standards.  

Kayla SouzaBS Language Arts Education, M.Ed. Early Childhood Education

Endorsements: English, Communications, ESL, Jr. Academy Science

Biographical Information

Kayla Souza is not your typical pre-kindergarten teacher.  She started as a communication major, but after two years of teaching grades 7 and 8 in Majuro, Marshall Islands, she changed her major to secondary language arts education.  Little did she know that she would change her course of action once again as a result of working her was way through college as an assistant director of a day care center in Lincoln, NE. Upon completion of her college coursework, she made her way east and several months later was asked to head up our new pre-kindergarten program. Her students' parents would declare that she is the best pre-kindergarten teacher anywhere.

From early childhood, Ms. Souza has been a voracious reader. She especially  loves children's literature and the classics. She is fond of biographies and enjoys reading works by C.S. Lewis and Jan Karon.  She is especially fond of The Chronicles of Narnia series, the Mitford Series, and many of the Newberry and Caldecott award winners. Ms. Souza's stated goal is to instill a love for books in her students.

Outside the classroom Ms. Souza enjoys Jazzercise, group fitness activities, and running.  She also enjoys sports, and particularly likes cheering for the underdog.  Other hobbies include travel, art and photography, reading, scrapbooking, baking, and experimenting with cooking that will accommodate her allergy needs.

Some of Ms. Souza's favorite places she has been and things she has enjoyed doing are hiking to the top of a big hill in Guam; jumping off a waterfall in Pohnpei; visiting Antigua and Guatemala; watching the rolling waves of grain in her home state of North Dakota, going to Disney World (She's a kid at heart!); fishing on the lakes of Minnesota and Canada, and traveling to Yellowstone National Park. Future goals include filling up her passport as many times as possible, visiting each state in the US, running a marathon, going on a cruise, swimming with dolphins, skydiving, and going to an NFL game.

Quote:  "I am a teacher because God called me to teach. I love watching my students grow, explore, and discover God's love. Play is learning - that's one of the biggest reasons I love teaching preschool!"


Kindergarten is the first direct contact with school that many students experience.  Atholton Adventist Academy wants this initial contact to be a positive, happy experience.  Students begin school at varying levels of developmental growth.  To meet the needs of each student individually, Atholton Adventist Academy has designed a curriculum that incorporates classroom activities and learning centers to help students develop physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually and to nurture their natural curiosity and desire to learn.  Kindergarten instruction provides readiness training that prepares students for the next levels of their education.  Following Kindergarten, Grade 1 placement is determined by testing and teacher evaluation.

Erline BurgessMA Early Childhood Education, M.Ed Education, BS Secondary Education and Home Economics

Endorsements: Early Childhood Education, Special Education, Home Economics

Biographical Information

When Mrs. Erline Burgess joined the Atholton faculty six years ago, she brought a wealth of diverse knowledge and experience from her 38 years of teaching in the Chesapeake Conference.  Coming to Atholton brought her back to teaching in her favorite area of teaching—first grade.  “They keep me young,” she says.  Ironically, pretending to be a first and second grade teacher was one of her favorite childhood games. 

Whether teaching a breadmaking class to a group of young students or teaching Testing and Measurements at Washington Adventist University students, Mrs. Burgess "feels at home."  She holds an advanced certificate in the Gesell assessment and often shares her talents with other schools throughout the conference by testing students to help determine their educational needs.  Her past experience working for education specialists at the National Institute of Health has been an invaluable resource when working with students who have learning challenges. Her philosophy of education shines through when one observes her encouraging a student to take their time and think. "Education should be a journey and not a race," she says.

Professional growth is important to Mrs. Burgess.  In the past she has served on the Curriculum Committee and the Executive Committee for the Chesapeake Conference. Currently she is a member on the  Advisory Committee for the Journal of Education. She also worked on committees that developed the pre-first curriculum and the new English curriculum for the North American Division.

Blessed with the gift of listening, Mrs. Burgess makes parents and colleagues feel comfortable when they have questions or concerns regarding their child's education needs. She is always willing to create new avenues to teach a math concept or reading skill. Mrs. Burgess was awarded the Zapara Award for outstanding teaching in the classroom. She is also a member of the Who's Who of America's Teachers.

Mrs. Burgess, who happens to be an identical twin, enjoys listening to uplifting Christian music, reading, crocheting, scrapbooking, sewing, and vacationing with family. She loves traveling across the US in their RV.

Enrichment Activities

Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten participate in Physical Education daily.  Computers augment the regular curriculum through educational software used for reading, math, and other curricular areas.