“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
by Carla Lechner
Over the past 20 years, preschool has become an expected part of a child’s education. But it is not so simple to say that preschool is where they just learn just social skills or counting or even ABCs. Rather, a good preschool should be a place where its youngest students are encouraged to develop skills in all domains: physical skills, listening skills, language skills, and visual skills. Given the opportunity, developmental skills will occur naturally and in a predictable progression in a child. Studies have shown that in order to learn to read and write, a child must have mastered at least 80 percent of these developmental skills in order to be able to learn to read and write; all this is best developed through play.
A good early childhood teacher understands child development, understands that little children learn best through play, and is a master at finding ways to play with kids so that they will grow and develop. At Saint Mary Preschool, every teacher is gifted in offering fun ways to play and expand skills. Different teachers excel at different kinds of teaching and it all works together to make the preschool a very fun place to learn.
In some preschools, outdoor time is often the time that a preschool teacher can relax a little as her students run freely, climb, socialize and enjoy exuberant play that is not allowable in a classroom. At Saint Mary Preschool, all teachers see outdoor time as a time to continue to engage students and challenge them to grow. One teacher in particular stands out for her noisy, boisterous, and funny ways. Her name is Debbie Williams.
Mrs. Williams is known to love water balloons and mud pies as much as her students. She takes the extra time to fill the balloons and mix mud and clean up after them while students strengthen shoulders, arms and visual skills tossing them at targets and at her. She can be seen out on the big hill with a trail of children running and sliding on makeshift sleds engaging the ones who need practice strengthening leg muscles, balance and cooperation. She uses the binoculars and takes her students on a “bear hunt” climbing trees, crossing bridges, and rowing boats and then running, running, running. Recently, she was seen dragging a full box of pool noodles into the school that she had bought on clearance-this toys value yet to be discovered out on the playground.
How did you get involved with Saint Mary Preschool?
When my daughter was enrolled in the preschool, they needed a playground supervisor. I worked my first eight years on the playground.
When one of our teachers became ill and had to leave, I began as a teacher in the Fish Class (for three-year-olds). I’ve been working for the Preschool for since 1995.
What makes the Saint Mary Preschool special for you?
It’s something about having a great environment that keeps you coming back. From a spiritual side, we make sure that everyone feels welcome to talk about God anytime. I feel it’s awesome that we can do that. If individual children need some quiet time, we can sit down and pray together.
What is the connection between parents and the Preschool?
We have very engaged parents. They want to know details about what their children are learning. They often ask their kids what they did at school today. Our students will tell them, “Yes, we prayed for Johnny’s grandma today because she’s not feeling well.”