Preschool celebrates 40 years

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 13, 2002

United Preschool is celebrating 40 years of getting children ready for kindergarten.

Saturday, April 13, 2002

United Preschool is celebrating 40 years of getting children ready for kindergarten.

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Lois Ann Anthony started the Anthony Nursery School in March of 1962. Anthony persuaded the board of the United Methodist Church to let her open a school for young children in the new church facility. The school first opened on a three-month trial basis with two teachers and 12 students.

In April of 1971, the board of directors decided to change the name of the school to United Preschool.

&uot;As the name implies, the program worked to blend parents, teachers and people in the community, united in working together for young children in the United Methodist Church facility,&uot; said Vicki S. Anderson, director.

Marjorie Fleming succeeded Anthony and remained until mid-1976. Fern Urbatsch assumed the directorship in 1977. And in January 1990, Anderson took over as director.

United Preschool is designed for children ages 3 to 6 years. Children can attend from one to three times per week. The non-profit preschool is licensed by the State of Minnesota and follows the District 241 school calendar.

The program at United Preschool is designed to include science, literature, art, music, math and reading readiness; gross and fine motor developmental skills; group activities and environmental awareness as enrichment experiences for the young child.

&uot;Freedom to choose from pre-selected activities and encouragement along the way are important ingredients to develop self-confidence, self-expression, self-discipline, social development, school readiness and joy in learning,&uot; Anderson said.

United Preschool currently serves 120 young children from the Albert Lea-Freeborn County areas. There are both morning and afternoon sessions, and registration is now going on for the 2002-03 school year.

From the beginning, the goals of the preschool have been to help children have positive self-images and happy relationships with their peers and non-family adults.

The preschool works with the District 241 kindergarten teachers in determining what teachers and students hope to accomplish. In addition, the preschool works with the District 241 Inclusion Program, serving numerous children with special needs, Anderson said.

The school offers a financial assistance program to families who declare an interest in United Preschool and state a financial need. Tuition is the main source of income for the preschool, but money also comes from fund-raising projects, the parent church, civic organizations and private donations. Anderson said in the past year, donations have come from the United Methodist Church, United Methodist Church Women, and many individuals.

The school offers both the children and their parents a check-out library. A birthday book fund helps expand the selection of books when children donate a book to the library in honor of a birthday.

Parents Plus is another important program at United Preschool, Anderson said. It gives an opportunity for a parent or caregiver to act as a teaching assistant in his or her child’s classroom. Some parents who volunteer read to small groups of children, oversee the art activities, or assist small groups engaged in a special activity.

In the spring, children take a bus trip and visit area farms, parks or other community destinations.

A board of directors for United Preschool is responsible for determining basic policies and management of the school. Current board members include Anderson, Ed and Tracie Bellrichard, Sue Erlandson, Richard and Sarah Stadheim, Charles and Lauri Olson, John and Kari Brick, Lea Nolting (chairwoman), Annie Olson and Fern Urbatsch.

Anderson said United Preschool has a number of dedicated teachers, many of whom have been there several years.

Current teaching staff includes Judy Bangh, Joann Schwartz, Marilyn Holl, Sue Erlandson, Annie Olson, Bernadette Clark and Nancy Wolff. Dawn Kaasa is the administrative assistant.

&uot;United Preschool has dedicated teachers who realize that they share in the privilege and the responsibility for the nurturing of the children,&uot; Anderson said. &uot;We are lucky we have so many teachers who have stayed here a long time.&uot;

They enjoy the work and watching the children grow, Anderson said. &uot;It’s fun now seeing former students bring their children to the preschool, the second generation,&uot; she added.