Past students and staff were invited and to attend to reunite in celebration of the milestone of the preschool.
The preschool was started when church staff members Joann Owens and Betty Brantley, formed a committee to try a “Mothers Morning Out” program for 3-year-olds in 1973.
The following year a three day class for four year olds and a five day kindergarten were added with Helen Jones serving as Director. Many teachers from these early years include Judy Prater, Margaret Thornton, Brenda Willet, Mary Alice Sullivan, and Mary Lichlyter, who are still active in Calhoun. These teachers watched their own children and grandchildren attend the school.
Judy tells stories about making home visits before school started, raising money for toys for $2 a child play days after school, antics on the playground, notes sent home to parents that were never read, as well as special children and good friends on staff.
When public schools began kindergarten, First United Methodist phased out that part of the program and instead had classes for 3 and 4-year-olds. With the arrival of Randy Mickler in Calhoun as Senior Paster in 1983, the preschool was expanded. Five day classes for 3 and 4 year olds were added along with classes for toddlers and 2-year-olds. Linn was hired as Director and the staff grew from three to seven.
Several activities that were initiated that year continue today. The costume parade through town on Halloween, a Thanksgiving meal now shared with the day care, as well as musical programs during Christmas and Spring time, are just a few of these programs.
The 1980’s as a whole were a time of growth for the school as preschool became a part of many families childcare. With the opening of the David Day Care, known today as the David Learning Center, in 1985, both programs grew rapidly.
In 1987, the preschool moved into the new Christian Activities Center, where it is still in operation today. The center added student art shows for parents as well as silent auctions of student and teacher decorated birdhouses. An annual fundraiser that has become quite popular is the Souper Sale in November, which offers a variety of homemade Brunswick Stew and other varieties of soup.
Over the years, the preschool has adapted its curriculum to meet the needs of students preparing to enter kindergarten. The goal of the preschool has always been learning in a Christian environment with a mission statement expressing those beliefs.
The preschool is one of two, weekday children’s ministries through which First United Methodist reaches out into the community in promotion of their mission statement. This statement expresses the goal to provide opportunities for learning, recreation and worship appropriate to a child’s age and developmental level, while supporting parents and strengthening the bonds of family.
The preschool has been and continues to be active in the community by visiting Morning Pointe of Calhoun residents, participating in programs such as the Preschool Pops at the Harris Arts Center, collecting children’s clothing for a missionary they support in Africa, as well as learning about community helpers such as doctors, firefighters and police officers.
It can be said that the heart of a school lies in part with its teachers and some staff at First United Methodist Preschool have been with the school for more than 20 years. Currently the small staff of seven have more than 100 years of experience between them.
Linn has been Director of the preschool for 30 years and although she may be retiring in May, Linn says the staff will always be a part of her extended family.
The service was held in the gym at First United Methodist.