Catholic preschools embrace early childhood learning, cater to working families

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Local Catholic childcare facilities and preschools spent the summer ensuring the diocese’s youngest learners are ready for preschool and kindergarten this month.

Most Holy Trinity Preschool remained open for the bulk of the summer offering curriculum-based lessons, themed activities and all-day childcare. This was the first time it offered such a service. A handful of families took advantage of the opportunity.

Three of the students are headed to kindergarten and two will be in preschool.

“The biggest thing that she has learned in the last year is Emily’s love for God, even as a 3year-old,” said Julie Kodicek, Emily’s mom.

Emily completed the first year of preschool at Most Holy Trinity and came regularly through the summer so she could have a continuity of a structured educational and spiritual environment, Kodicek said. The family committed to the school while Emily’s older brother attended a nearby daycare.

Every week at Most Holy Trinity had a theme and each day began with typical circle time activities. Students reviewed — or in the case of one newcomer, learned — the basics about the calendar, geography and prayers. They even prayed to St. Michael the Archangel on their way out to the playground.

Sr. Emmanuel Schmidt, SOLT, worked with the students as her summer travel schedule allowed. Aimee Gerkin, incoming preschool teacher, took the lead. She introduced students to writing skills and was sure to let the youngest students practice in sand to help them better grasp letter shapes. For others, the curriculum served as a review to increase retention.

One boy, who took a two-week break for a summer vacation, humbly remembered what he had learned.

“I kept it in my brain. There’s a big wall in front of my brain and it can’t get out,” he said.

Kodicek said she stands in awe over her daughter’s relationship with God and what she knows. She recognizes churches on the road, points out “Mama Mary” statues she finds and during the consecration at Mass says, “Where’s God?”

“She’s asking questions. She’s putting the dots together,” Kodicek said.

At the Children’s Center, a licensed daycare facility and childcare ministry at St. Timothy Parish in Mesa, staff continued regular operations. Four children are transitioning to preschool this month. The availability of “wrap around care” has also attracted some new students to the preschool, said DeEtte Milhone, director. When class is over, they head to the Children’s Center for daycare until they are picked up.

“The concept of providing a loving Catholic learning environment for children from birth through eighth-grade is a great selling point for working parents,” Milhone said.

St. Joseph Catholic School in Cottonwood realized the same thing last year and offered free after school care to preschool parents.

“Parents don’t always get off at 2:45. It was creating a hardship,” said Diana Cienega, the preschool director.

Five families enrolled their kids in the after care program. Cienega said they loved exploring outside. They also spent their afternoons doing crafts and playing games.

Most students were picked up by 4:30 p.m. With a classroom full preschoolers who started last week, Cienega expects the after care program to grow.

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