ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
Love and learn.
That’s what Alysia Yoder, new director and teacher of Stepping Stones Preschool of Marion, wants her 3-to-5-year-old kids to be able to do both during and after their upcoming school year with her.
And she’s working for an instituition with a history of helping people of all ages to do just that.
Located inside and run by Valley United Methodist Church at 300 E. Santa F.e, the preschool has as its mission that “children will learn about God’s love for them and their family through our Biblically-based curriculum.”
But the religious tones of this mission are not meant to keep out or scare away anyone, Yoder said.
“It is a Christian preschool, but we have kids of all faiths and all denominations that come here,” she said. “It’s a preschool first and foremost.”
The mission goes on to explain that children also “will learn how to work and play together and have their first learning experience be a positive one” in which they will “grow intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and socially.”
Yoder emphasized that this social aspect of learning is what makes preschool an important part of early childhood development.
“I think preschool is a huge part of that, just the activities and learning how to share with other kids,” she said.
Preschool is key not only for learning how to interact with other children, she said, but also for “learning how to follow rules in a classroom setting, because that’s what they’re going to do in school.”
According to the mission statement, Yoder’s classes will provide an environment for kids to grow in self-esteem, social and listening skills, readiness for academic learning, ability for creative expression through art and music, appreciation and enjoyment of a variety of children’s books, games, songs and activities, problem-solving skills, Bible knowledge and prayer.
Each morning or afternoon session likely will include a work time for reading or art projects, circle time, a Bible storytime and another storytime, outside time and snack time, Yoder said.
“I’m trying to get everything structured and worked out right,” Yoder said. “But that’s basically some of things that’ll be included.”
A recent college graduate, Yoder brings to her position a solid combination of training and experience.
The Corn, Okla., native graduated in May from Tabor College with a degree in business, and in 2003 from Hesston College with a degree in early childhood education.
Yoder praised the Hesston program for its hands-on training.
“They had an on-campus preschool there,” she said. “So you learn things in the classroom and then you apply it directly to the preschool.”
Yoder took her work experience at Hesston a step further than most by serving as assistant preschool teacher during her last semester, then returning to the pre-school last January as a substitute teacher.
Yoder also worked in daycares during her summers at home throughout college, she said.
She and new husband Scott Yoder just moved to Hillsboro following a July 9 wedding in Oklahoma, she said.
And with Scott employed at Ag Service in Hillsboro, Yoder said finding this position just down the road in Marion was a perfect fit in every way.
“They were advertising for a preschool teacher, and that’s really what I was looking to do after I graduated,” she said. “Hopefully the business part from Tabor will help me with all the paperwork.
“That’s kind of what I was thinking when I got my bachelor’s in business, was to integrate the two.”
Classes start Sept. 1, Yoder said, so there is still plenty of time to enroll.
She has two partially filled classes so far for Mondays and Wednesdays, one in the mornings for 3-year-olds and another in the afternoons for 4- and 5- year-olds.
Children must turn age 3 by Aug. 31 for the morning class and age 4 by Aug. 31 for the afternoon class.
Yoder said she hopes to have enough children enroll to fill those classes and even start a third one.
“Last year there were three classes, and I can have up to 12 children in each class,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll get more response, and then Tuesday and Thursday we’ll open up a class.”
Yoder will teach all of the classes, with former elementary school teacher Mary Jeffries of Marion volunteering as a teacher’s aide.
Yoder said the preschool is open not just to kids in Marion and Hillsboro but all around the county.
“The goal is, for me, just to keep this program going because it is such a good program,” she said.
Parents can pick up an application at the church office between 9 a.m. and noon on weekdays.
For more information, call the church at 620-382-3142.