Marion native returns home for the kids

Marion native Tristen Cope begins her first week as director of the Stepping Stones Preschool at Valley Methodist Church in Marion.  Aleen Ratzlaff / Free Press

This summer Tristen Cope returned to Marion to begin married life and her professional career.

?I?ve lived here my whole life,? Cope said. ?Almost all of my family is from around the area.?

Tristen and husband Adam, who were married last month, have secured jobs in Marion County that are a good fit for their passions and training.

Tristen, a newly minted Kansas State University grad, marked July 1 as her official day as director of Stepping Stones Preschool at Valley Methodist Church in Marion.

?It?s a new challenge to come back to my hometown and learn all new things because I knew everything in Manhattan?working at schools and different childcare centers there,? said Cope, who earned a degree in early childhood education at K-State.

Adam, who studied animal science at K-State, recently started his job as ranch manager for Mark and Kim Harms at the Harms Plainview Ranch near Lin?colnville.

The couple, who started dating as juniors, graduated from Marion High School in 2011. Adam?s parents, Sarah and Clint Cope, live on the Doyle Creek Ranch near Florence. Tristen is the daughter of Tammy and Danny Snelling of Marion.

Asked about the couple?s decision to settle in Marion, Tristen said, ?That was a crazy process, let me tell to you.?

They first focused on finding ranch work for Adam.

?That?s harder to find than a preschool teacher (position),? Tristen said.

His job search involved looking in Kansas, Okla?homa and other Midwest locations.

?He went on several interviews, and we sat down and decided that the Harms Plainview Ranch was the place that God was leading us to be,? she said.

Tristen soon learned about the opening for a new director and preschool teacher at Stepping Stones.

?We kind of saw that as a calling that we should check out,? she said. ?So I?came and interviewed, and it was exactly what I was looking for. It really was a blessing. It worked out perfectly.?

At K-State, Cope?s early childhood education program included coursework, practicums and student teaching that qualified her for Kansas State Depart?ment of Education licensure in early childhood unified, which includes infant through kindergarten.

?While I was attending school for early childhood, I also worked at a childcare center for birth through age 5, so I was an assistant there and assumed various roles,? Cope said, adding that she also helped with administrative work and worked as lead teacher for a summer.

?I think that job really helped me with my studies and putting my knowledge to practice,? she added.

Cope?s enthusiasm for working with children is obvious. ?I love their curiosity about everything, and I love their passion for just about everything they do, and their innocence, I guess,? Cope said. ?They?re intrigued about everything and they see the good in the world.?

Consequently, Cope said, she?s committed to investing in young children.

?Preschool is a must in my books,? she said. ?A lot of people have considered preschool in the past as not a huge influence?it?s more of a daycare,? she said. ?But preschool in today?s society, as what I grew up in teaching, is (children) are learning to become a person. The early years are the most important years of a child?s life.?

Stepping Stones, according to KSDE standards, is licensed for 12 children ages 3 to 5 in the classroom at one time, said Cope, who is reviewing the curriculum and working to revamp the program.

?It?s a faith-based program that we do,? she said. ?So we do a lot of Bible lessons and work on memory verses and then incorporate faith in, too. That?s a big part of the program here.?

As lead teacher, Cope will work together with volunteers from Valley Metho?dist Church in the classroom.

Currently, a half-day preschool will meet from 8:30-11:30 a.m., Cope said. If more children need to be served, then an afternoon class will be considered.

?We?re not set on days yet,? she said. ?So we?re still working through the process of all those details.?

Dates, class schedule and tuition will be finalized after a meeting with the church board, Tristen said, and then she can inform the public.

To enroll or for more information, parents can contact Tristen Cope by email at tristen_1001@hotmail.com or call the church at 620-382-3142.

For Cope, being part of the Marion community means being involved in the lives of its children.

?It is really awesome, really amazing to come back to my hometown,? she said. ?I think when you?re in a small town, you?re able to watch the children grow up and see who they become. I think that?s one of the really amazing things about it?you get to watch them grow into their own individual person.?

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