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Directors of diocese’s seven preschools say that faith makes all the difference

By THERESA WARD
08/16/2019 | Comments

COLORADO SPRINGS. The Diocese of Colorado Springs has no less than seven diocesan preschools. All are state-licensed preschools and either stand-alone or are part of a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school. They provide a variety of options for parents in terms of programs, but all agree that ages three to five is a great time for young children to learn how much God loves them.

Mandi Lupher directs the St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School in Highlands Ranch, a ministry of Pax Christi Parish. She emphasizes the opportunity for students to participate in philanthropy: “St. Katherine Drexel preschool has always been a loving, family-friendly environment where each student is treated as a child of God just as St. Katherine Drexel would have done. We also embody the spirit of stewardship and have the students and parents partake in several events through the year where we help the community. You may often see the students and teachers bringing food from our garden up to the families that visit Pax Christi’s food pantry and food bank.” The school was opened in 2013 and serves students from three to five years old in assorted full-time and part-time programs.

Also found in the diocese’s Northern Deanery is Ave Maria School in Parker.

“Our faith is incorporated in all we do at Ave Maria Preschool,” said director Kathleen Weishaupl. “Our morning announcements end with “Remember to work hard, pray hard, play hard, and take care of one another.” Wieshaupl would like parents to know that all of the teachers are credentialed teachers. “We are so blessed to have amazing teachers and to have been voted best workplace multiple years in a row.” Begun in 2005, the preschool strives to provide young children with a safe and loving environment in which they can explore, experiment, and grow spiritually in an atmosphere of faith and friendliness conducive to Christian learning. Recently the preschool earned a Level 4 with Colorado Shines, an independent quality assurance company for early learning programs.

Tina Hatton is a teacher of the three-year-old class at St. Peter Preschool in Monument. “Every morning we say morning prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance,” she said. “We talk freely about God.­ Once a week we attend Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.” Hatton explained that, at Christmas, they focus on the birth of Jesus and during Lent, they learn about and do the Stations of the Cross.­ “We talk about the Last Supper and the Resurrection during Easter,” she said. The parish established the preschool in 2003, eventually growing it to an elementary school extending through eighth grade. They graduated their first class in 2014. Hatton wants parents to know that in a community that experiences significant winter weather, “We have caring teachers who are focused on the success of your child. On a snow delay, some schools cancel their preschool. Here at St. Peter, our preschool also has a delay, so they are not missing school.”­

The Holy Apostles Preschool is perhaps the longest-established preschool in the diocese at 40 years. Director McKenna Anderson said she wished more parents understood the power of the coop preschool model. “We create a true community that brings together parents, teachers, and children.” Each year the preschool has a potluck dinner to bring the community together. Parents make a commitment to help with the classes, which are led by an experienced teacher and a parent volunteer. This gives classes an average ratio of one adult to five children. The preschool teaches Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a hands-on religious education program which recognizes and respects the deep religious capacity of children. Anderson added, “Holy Apostles Preschool is quality rated by the Colorado Office of Early Education as a Level 4 program. Additionally, the program is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and meets the rigorous national standards set forth for early childhood education programs.”

Corpus Christi Preschool values the ability to talk, learn and live the faith with students, said Jen Gutschick, who has directed the program for ten years. “Not only that,” she said, “the students have an opportunity to develop relationships with school-age children. Each of our preschool classes pairs up with another school-age class known as our “Buddy Class.” Our Buddies sit with us at our weekly Mass and come together for monthly activities, including community outreach.” The preschool, with a high staff retention rate, hosts several events through the year that are fun and memorable. “A few highlights of the events our students and teachers were able to enjoy were a Teddy Bear Picnic, our annual Jog-a-thon, and morning pancake breakfasts with our students and families,” said Gutschick. The school offers diverse part and full-time preschool options for its students.

Kari Smith said that she wishes parents knew the contagious energy of Divine Redeemer School. The principal went on to say, “We are filled with stakeholders who are fueled by their vocation and who want to be a part of the mission of Catholic schools.­ I also wish parents knew what important work we are doing at Divine Redeemer to honor the truth within a culture that is increasingly secular and individualistic. What makes our school unique is the deep sense of purpose that permeates our parish and school community. Our community is one with a robust Catholic identity that fosters students who are rooted in faith to be confident, servant leaders.” The school’s most recent “Extreme Service Project” was a collection for servicemen and women at Fort Carson’s Warriors Warehouse, where $6500 worth of items were collected for soldiers returning from a tour overseas, to welcome them home. The school offers a preschool program that is warm, creative, faith-filled, and recently opened a second Pre-Kindergarten classroom for children who turn four by October 1.

“St. Paul’s Early Childhood Program welcomes children as Jesus did, infusing the concepts of faith: value, justice, equality, and love of creative learning,” said­ Carrie Kaveney, parent volunteer with the St. Paul School Communications Committee. “We build a strong foundation of faith and learning, truly believing that what our children believe is just as important as what they know.” Kaveney continued that the different learning modes of each child are addressed through experiential hands-on activities, and the school prepares students for a positive kindergarten experience since the Core Knowledge Preschool Curriculum is correlated to the kindergarten curriculum, providing a smooth transition. “Also, an essential part of our program is the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, in which children get to experience the components of the Mass and Liturgy in a hands-on environment called the Atrium, a dedicated classroom at our school. The school offers several preschool classes with different levels of time in class, and it earned­ Bronze in the 2019 Gazette’s “Best of Colorado Springs,” preschool category.

For further information about Diocesan preschools, access www.diocs.org/education. For information about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, access www.cgsusa.org. For information about the Core Knowledge Curriculum, access coreknowledge.org/curriculum


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