Just as the school year is starting up, we talked to Brenda Hoppestad, director at .
Small Miracles Preschool is located at 2700 75th Street, adjacent to the .
Patch: On average, how many children are enrolled in the preschool?
Hoppestad: Up until this year, we were licensed for 74 students. Over the past several years, however, many of our classes filled very quickly, and we had a lengthy waiting list. Just this summer we moved our 2 ½ to 4-year-old classes into a larger room, allowing us to enroll more children in both our 3-year-old and 4-year-old classes. Our DCFS representative visited in early August and approved the renovation!
Our license is now for 95 children. We are not planning on filling the classes of our younger students to capacity. We like to keep the student and teacher ratio lower in our 3’s classes, allowing the teachers more time with each child.
Patch: Can you tell me about the teachers?
Hoppestad: Small Miracles Preschool is very fortune to employ six teachers who are experienced, caring, kind and wonderful at working with young children. Not only are they great teachers, but they are dedicated, with their years of service ranging from 6 to 13 years.
To meet our DCFS guidelines, all teachers attend a minimum of 15 hours of in-service training each year and are certified in CPR and first aid. In addition to being qualified teachers, we are all moms. We know and understand the anxiety and stress that you and your child both may feel when starting school. We work with both the children and the parents on all aspects that arise during the preschool years.
Patch: What are some fun activities children do throughout the day?
Hoppestad: We feel that children learn best through play. We also know that to best prepare them for kindergarten, we need to provide a balanced combination of guided instructional activities and hands-on experiences. These activities are presented in such a way that the child is having fun while learning the skills they need to move on to the next level.
On a daily basis, the children participate in such activities as easel painting, sensory table, “cooking,” both small group art and instructional activities, large motor play, indoor or outdoor play, (depending on the weather) and story and music time.
Special activities that we do throughout the year include holiday parties, a Chuck E. Cheese fundraiser, Pajama Day, a Spring Fling musical performance, an end-of-the-year celebration and much more. In addition to these special events, the pre-kindergarten class also participates in Olympic Day, Crazy Hair Day and a year-end graduation ceremony.
Patch: What are some field trips the students take?
Hoppestad: Field trips are scheduled about five times a year, and families and siblings are also invited to attend. Permission slips are sent home and the cost is usually about $5 each.
Our first field trip, held in October, is a Halloween Marionette show. The children are fascinated by these “puppets” on strings. Santa and Mrs. Claus visit in December. They sing and dance with the children for about 45 minutes and take a picture with each child at the end. Other visitors may include the Nature Lady, Mother Goose, a police officer, village worker, dentist or nurse, depending on the themes or units we are learning about.
Patch: What do you hope to achieve with each student by the time they leave preschool?
Hoppestad: First, we hope each child leaves with a love for learning. The preschool years set the foundation, and we want to provide children with a variety of learning experiences that they will carry with them throughout their school careers. Second, we want to help them learn the skills they need to succeed in school. When children have the knowledge, they are more successful, confident learners.
Patch: Do you have any suggestions for parents that will help with the transition of sending their child to school for the first time?
Hoppestad: We suggest bringing your child to visit the school before classes begin. For some children, just looking at the outside of the building, the playground, the door they will enter and the windows of their classroom will make them feel more comfortable and familiar with the school.
Simply talk to them about “their school,” and ask them if they have any questions as you are visiting. You would be surprised at some of the questions they are thinking.
For our 3-year-old classes, the day before school begins, we invite the children and their parents for “cookies with the teachers.” This gives both the children and the parents the opportunity to visit the classroom, meet the teachers and other children and families they will be getting to know throughout the school year. Also, there are many great books out there about starting school.
Finally, about a week before school begins, our teachers send each child a letter talking about what they will do on the first day of school, a name tag to wear on the first day and a picture of themselves so the child knows what their teachers look like. You would be surprised how important that is to a child!