Pictorial History of First Church Preschool - CLICK HERE
In 1962, after the Educational wing was completed, Dr. John Figley, a visionary pastor and creative thinker, felt the need for the church structure to be used during the week and not just on Sunday morning. Dr. Figley and Jean Dee, Director of Children’s Ministries, decided there was a need for a Methodist sponsored week-day pre-school. In 1964, Judy Stockman was asked to assist by developing a plan to begin this initiative and to accept the responsibility as director/teacher. The Week-Day Pre-School became a reality and began with its first class in the fall of 1965 with 11 students and one teacher.
The school began with a basic budget for supplies and utilizing the church school equipment. Jackie Jollie, the church treasurer, handled all financial arrangements.
The basic goals and objectives of the school were to build a program to support the Christian education and foundation of our Methodist Church children and the children in the community. The purpose was to meet their emotional, intellectual, creative and physical needs within a Christian environment. The physical setting was ideal - the three classrooms were large, well furnished, and close together. Wesley Hall was ideal for large play equipment, running and using outside voices. The outdoor play area and surrounding field and woods provided good running and nature hikes.
The first class consisted of eleven 4-year old students and met three times a week from 9:00 - 11:30 a.m. The staff developed the instructional curriculum by selecting and purchasing materials to meet the needs of the children. Carolyn Sigmund was the second lead teacher to be hired in 1967 and taught for 22 years. Karen Smith was the third lead teacher to be hired in 1968, and taught for 20 years. The first p.m. teacher was Jeannie Baker, who taught for one year. Then Linnea Oleson was hired. Nancy Booth was hired in 1972 to teach the second afternoon class. Sandi Rasmussen replaced Linnea in 1978.
Nancy Booth became Director of the First United Methodist Weekday Preschool in 1979. She replaced Judy Stockman who left this position after fourteen years to become faculty/staff at Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI. At this time, Karen Groos replaced Nancy as lead teacher in the afternoon.
The three year old program was added with Carolyn and Karen as the first lead teachers. Further growth was adding a 3rd class to each session, and an afternoon 2 day a week program.
Some of the lead teachers we had during the years were: Jane Bradley Wood, Donna Burkett, Pat Broederdorf, Bonnie Blundy, Carol DePue, Sandy Poling.
Some of the aides were: Jamie Shoemaker, Julie Waring, Betsy Baldwin, Barb Kearns, Carolyn Reed, Elaine Krallitch, Mary Clouse, and Nancy Freburg.
The teachers and aides worked well together, enjoyed each other, and built long lasting relationships.
The Music Program was very special. At first there were three “old” upright pianos - one in each classroom. Each day the children had about 20 minutes of music. Doris Ihde, Jan Fritz and Jane Bradley Wood taught the children songs. They sang, jumped, skipped, and clapped to the music of the piano. The highlight of the year was our Mother’s Day Tea. The children put on a full program under the direction of the music teacher. This was followed by tea and cookies and an open house where the walls were covered with special art projects to show mom, and of course, a special Mother’s Day present and card. It was quite a production.
The teachers have been excellent and creative. Only certified teachers with classroom experience and credentials for teaching in the public school were hired. The pre-school was certified by the State of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in the year 1965.
In the early years, an Advisory Board was created with members involved and advocates from the church. The first chair of this board was Martin Anderson, Principal of Coventry School and a member of the Methodist Church. After Martin left Maxine Kempf became the Chair of the Advisory Board. They were helpful in assisting in the preparation of policies and perspectives that were beneficial in growing the school.
Under ‘kids say the darnedest things’ section, Carolyn remembers two of the girls in her class playing and sharing a game. It was time to put things away and get ready to go home, and one of the girls found a small shelf for the game. Her friend looked at the shelf and said it ain’t going to fit. She received an instant reply; “Ain’t is not a word ......Her friend also gave a reply, and said, “It is too; I have an Ain’t Sally that lives in St. Louis!” Another teacher remembers an incident in the late 1970’s where the class had a special visit from Santa. One occasion Santa let the children ask questions. One little girl in the front row raised her hand and asked “Why are you wearing Reverend Baker’s shoes?
Throughout the 50 years of Methodist Week-Day Pre-School, there have been many wonderful experiences with associates of the church families, pastors, directors, teachers and staff. As we look forward to a new school year in 2014, First Church has dedicated the entire downstairs of our facility to the Pre-school and we have a new Director, Kim Lamz. There are currently 1 Director, 1 Asst. Director, 10 Teachers, 93 Students, and 6 classrooms in use for children ages 2 - 5 year-olds to gain a Christian Education. We look forward to many more years of providing Christian education for pre-school children in our Church and community.