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Columns

Park District Dish: Preschool teachers go above and beyond in Batavia

The 2017 New Horizons Preschool teachers are (back row, from left) Paulette Starck, Amy Brooks, Amy Glover, Mary Steskal, Pam Sorenson, Deb Carlson, (front row, from left) Kaylee Gallagher, Laurie Musielak, Jean Butzler, Sue Heffter and Sue Pawlicki. The school is located in Batavia.
The 2017 New Horizons Preschool teachers are (back row, from left) Paulette Starck, Amy Brooks, Amy Glover, Mary Steskal, Pam Sorenson, Deb Carlson, (front row, from left) Kaylee Gallagher, Laurie Musielak, Jean Butzler, Sue Heffter and Sue Pawlicki. The school is located in Batavia.

Our formative years are the most important, in my opinion. This is the period that will have the strongest influence on the rest of our lives and help shape us into the adults we are today. That being said, how we develop during our preschool years is particularly important because it is the foundation of our social and emotional growth. With so many preschool options in the Tri-Cities area, it is no wonder that parents have a difficult time selecting the right school for their child.

The teachers at New Horizons Preschool, a play-based program focusing on meaningful learning and the philosophy that children learn more through play, understand this challenge. Not only do they go to great lengths to set themselves apart from other schools, but the teachers also stress the importance of building strong relationships with both the children and the parents, as well as seeing each other as resources.

Kaylee Gallagher, one of the original teachers since the preschool opened its doors in 1996, talks about how the New Horizons teachers work as a team. Together, the teachers boast more than 100 years of teaching experience and come from a variety of education backgrounds.

“We love talking to the parents. Our teacher-to-student ratio is low, typically 12 children to two adults, which allows for more specialized attention,” she said. “Whether it is the parent, grandparent or caregiver, we try to have open communication every day if possible. I also love watching the kids grow over the year and educating the parents on how they can work on things at home. Watching the kids get excited about learning is just amazing!”

While there are curriculum and structure, the children learn by doing a variety of activities, including playing dress up, art, writing, storytime and more. Preschool supervisor Lori McDonald mentioned that New Horizons teachers stay on top of new education tools and trends by attending the Concordia College Early Childhood Conference in Chicago every year.  

“The teachers get so many innovative ideas at the conference to bring to the classroom,” she said. “It is rewarding to be a part of ... the children’s development. I want to provide every opportunity for the teachers to continue their own education. Everything the teachers do has a meaning behind it, and while it may not make sense to us as adults, it does to the children. And the teachers truly believe in what they do – you don’t get that dedication everywhere.”

Parents also take notice of how the teachers go above and beyond. Kathy Kuchta of Batavia has enrolled both of her children in the program and volunteers throughout the year for the Scholastic Book Sale.

“The teachers are amazing. A lot of them have been there for many years and that speaks to their commitment,” she said. “After my daughter went through the program, I didn’t even consider anywhere else when enrolling Ryan. My son ended up having a rough time later on, and I remember receiving an email from his teacher at 6 a.m. Mrs. Musielak said she was up all night brainstorming ways to help Ryan and couldn’t wait to share them with me. Wow! I can’t recommend this program enough.”

“I love it when parents request me as their child’s teacher due to a positive recommendation from another participant,” said Deb Carlson, who has been teaching with New Horizons since 2000. “We respect both the kids and parents, and we want what’s best for them. So many children have come through my classroom, even from the same families. I had the chance to teach five of seven children from one household! I really enjoy developing friendships with the families, keeping in touch and continue watching them grow into young adults. My own son went through the program, so I can speak firsthand about the quality of the program. He just graduated from college and is ready to start his master’s program.”

New Horizons Preschool is a proud program of the Batavia Park District. Classes begin at young 3s and go up to a pre-K program for children who turn 5 by Jan. 1. For information about the program, to check availability or to schedule a tour, please contact Lori McDonald at lorim@bataviaparks.org or call 630-406-5282.

Katie Drum is the director of marketing and public relations for the Batavia Park District. The “Park District Dish” column runs the second Thursday of each month in the Kane County Chronicle. Contact Drum at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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