By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
SPARTA — Choosing a school for the first time for a child, especially for children who are 3, 4 or 5 years old, is one of the most important, yet difficult decisions a parent can make. Make the right decision and the child can start on a path toward lifelong learning, a college education and a successful career.
Reverend George A. Brown Memorial School can offer a solution to this situation, as it has an Early Childhood Development Program. The Early Childhood Development Program is for 3-, 4-, and 5-year old children entering pre-school and it allows them to experience a faith-filled curriculum in a warm and nurturing setting while they build the foundation to take on life’s challenges.
“The Early Childhood Development Program is a wonderful part of our school,” Reverend Brown Principal Patricia Klebez said. “Pre-schools are not the same as they were years ago when it comes to preparing children for Kindergarten and beyond. The demands are greater and the need for children to develop 21st Century skills at an earlier age has never been more prevalent. We want our students to fall in love with learning at an early age and guide them toward becoming future leaders for positive change in our world. What we are doing here is so important for students because we are giving children an edge to grow, succeed, and have those skills that they can build on in the future.”
The Early Childhood Development Program first started in 2005 as a joint venture between Our Lady of the Lake Parish and Reverend Brown. They wanted to provide a faith-based Catholic preschool for the community and also wanted to create a program that would fully prepare children to enter the full-day Kindergarten at Reverend Brown.
Unlike other pre-schools, students in the Early Childhood Development Program at Reverend Brown are fully incorporated into all aspects of the school. Reverend Brown is a Pre-K to fourth grade elementary school.
All of the Early Childhood students get to experience the same course offerings like Art, Language Arts Literacy, Mathematics, Music, Health and Physical Education, Religion, Science, Social Studies and Spanish. They also get to use the same facilities such as the Makerspace, Library/Media Center, the stage and cafeteria in McKenna Hall, and the gymnasium.
In addition, Early Childhood students get to be paired with third and fourth grade students as reading and prayer buddies, and are involved in other various projects with them throughout the school year. By being fused into the school, the younger students and older students develop relationships with each other.
“Having them in the building with the other grades enables them to be fully-integrated into the school,” Klebez said. “It makes it special for them that they get to do what the older kids are doing.”
Not only do the Early Childhood students get to be exposed to these great features of the school, but they also get the chance to explore all aspects of Kindergarten readiness through planned activities, projects, and guided use of the learning centers. In doing so, they learn structure, critical thinking, teamwork, responsibility, etiquette, empathy and leadership, along with many other skills and characteristics, according to Early Childhood teacher Luci Saltos.
“Our goal is to nurture and develop the whole child,” said Saltos, who helped found the program. “These skills that we as adults need to have they are learning now.”
For those students who are 3 years old, they begin acquiring these skills through “Learning without Tears,” a developmental program that Early Childhood teacher Dana Krygoski implemented at the school to better understand how they learn and what is the best way to teach them. In the program, they learn letters, numbers, shapes, social and emotional development, and other subject areas through hands-on activities and group discussions.
“This is their first experience with school for most of them,” Krygoski said. “This is where they realize that learning is fun and they are capable of doing these things.”
For those students who are 4 and 5 years old, they get the chance to enhance those skills while meeting the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. They also get exposed to instruction from different teachers, something that is important in today’s society.
“They are interacting with other teachers and taking in their lessons,” said Julie Kimble, who along with Saltos teaches the 4/5-year-old students. “They have an opportunity every single day to be enriched by someone else.”
Along with what they are learning, all students receive individual attention from the teachers and their progress is tracked through individual portfolios and anecdotal records. Also, all teachers are trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach — a teaching method that helps students who have reading issues — and they have background in psychology and/or special education so they can help the child with any situation.
All of these aspects of the program have drawn great reviews from parents who have children in it.
Heather Forneris said that her 3-year-old son George, who attends the program three full days per week, loves how much he has learned in the short time he has been a part of it.
“He is always excited to go to school,” Forneris said. “He always talks about his days. The work is not overly rigorous for his age, but has picked up more at his age than our other three daughters had when they went to other pre-schools. He is a year ahead of where they were.”
Racquel Hiben said that she and her 5-year-old son Elijah, who attends the 4/5-year-old program five full days per week, really like that the program has helped him socially and academically.
“He really enjoys it,” Hiben said. “At first, he came in shy and had some separation anxiety, but he has come a long way in those areas. He has learned how to work in groups and speak in front of the class. The course offerings and the religious aspect of the curriculum have been great for his development. Reverend Brown has given him an incredible experience that is far superior than other area pre-schools and day cares.”
While George Forneris and Elijah are just two examples, Reverend Brown hopes that other families can see that the decision to have their children attend the Early Childhood Development Program is one that will be worth it now and in the future.
Early Childhood students can be a part of this community by registering for three or five days per week. For more information and to schedule a tour regarding Reverend Brown School’s Early Childhood Development Program, please contact the main office at 973-729-6125 Option 1, ext. 1003.