When you walk in the preschool room at St. Peter-Immanuel, you can feel the energy of young minds ready to learn. Whether students are digging for treasures in the sand box or planting seeds and watching them grow, the preschool program inspires creativity and learning, preparing young minds for kindergarten and beyond.
St. Peter-Immanuel began their preschool program three years ago, adding a great early education option to the school. Preschool teacher Lindsey Irwin started at the school when it opened, adding years of early education experience to the program and giving Mrs. Irwin the opportunity to build the learning environment from scratch.
“When we started, the room was completely blank,” Mrs. Irwin notes. “We had to buy everything.” Now the room contains creative play stations, learning activities, and plenty of space for active preschoolers.
Mrs. Irwin’s focus for the preschool is clear. “The preschool program lays the building blocks for academic excellence later in life as kids grow. Our goal is to support each child with their needs and their transition to kindergarten.”
The school offers a three-year-old class on Tuesday and Thursday, as well as a four-and-five-year-old class that meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Both classes meet for half days, but extended care is offered for all preschoolers. She adds, “Being out in the country we make [extended care] available for parents who can’t get out of work.”
Mrs. Irwin takes special care to design learning activities that interest children, whether it’s a unit on dinosaurs, complete with digging for dinosaur bones or studying how seeds sprout in the spring. By using hands-on learning experiences, students gain confidence and are assimilated into the whole learning environment at St. Peter-Immanuel.
Middle school students from St. Peter-Immanuel also benefit through leadership opportunities with the younger students. During the school’s chapel service, middle schoolers are responsible for a “chapel family,” consisting of younger students. The chapel family leaders help preschoolers follow hymns and participate in service projects. This also provides preschoolers with a big brother or sister to look up to, giving St. Peter-Immanuel a family focus.
Julie Kowalke, principal at St. Peter-Immanuel, says, “Our pre-kindergarten students have daily contact with the older students in the school.This gives them more confidence around all age groups.They leave preschool ready for kindergarten.”
Interest in the preschool program continues to grow; the class has tripled its numbers in three years with many students going on to kindergarten.
Because this transition can be a huge change for children, preschoolers at St. Peter-ImmanueI already have a head start on their peers. They are used to the building, recess, principal and library, making kindergarten an easy transition instead of a frightening change.
Mrs. Irwin’s favorite thing about teaching this age group is watching their development and excitement for learning. “This is the most important time and they’re like little sponges. They get excited and it’s really fun watching them learn.”
The program is not only beneficial for students, but also has been a blessing for the entire school as well. “It helps bring in different families to the school,” Mrs. Irwin states. “They fall in love with the school.”
“Because of the small size our students are truly part of a small community,” Ms. Kowalke says.“We are able to see each child as an individual and help them to grow in areas they are weak.”
The future continues to look bright for the preschool program at St. Peter-Immanuel. Ms. Kowalke adds, “Our kids are being taught how to treat others and how to respect themselves by using God's Word.Our kids know they are valuable to God.”