When not enough students enrolled, teachers Laura Kinney and Cheri Pederson decided to retire. They were also the directors of Hosanna’s Sunshine Preschool.
The preschool program will continue with three preschool teachers, Renelle Boyd, Britta Mills and Jennifer Jasinski, as the new directors.
Boyd has taught at Sunshine Preschool for five years and Mills for four. Both are St. Catherine graduates and certified elementary teachers. Jasinski, who has a business degree from Augsburg, has been at Hosanna for a year.
A fourth teacher, newly hired Pattie Jents, was a substitute teacher last year. She has worked as a travel agent and piano instructor.
All four are qualified preschool teachers according to Minnesota’s Rule 3.
Three preschool classes and a prekindergarten class will be offered, for a total enrollment of 80. There are currently eight openings. Students attend from Forest Lake, Wyoming, Hugo, Lino Lakes, Columbus, Linwood, Scandia and Chisago City.
The new directors were trained by Kinney and Pederson and intend to keep the same mission, curriculum and core values.
Each class will have 20 students and two teachers. The monthly Bible lesson and daily devotions, written by Kinney, will continue. “All the work they did to create that kindergarten enrichment program, we don’t want to lose,” Boyd said.
Every month the teachers introduce a new letter, color, number and shape. No topic is allowed to become stale: “If they get tired of what’s on the sensory table, we change it,” Mills said.
The preschool program is taught using themes. This fall, the theme will be farms. There will be animal visits and a field trip. A tractor wheel will illustrate the circle shape. A farmer will visit and answer questions.
“We want them to meet real people,” Jasinski said. “We give them true-life examples, hands-on experience.”
For the second half of the year, an ocean theme will include an aquarium field trip, art projects, sea shells and a beach party.
The themes are on a three-year cycle, so kids who attend for two years have no repetition.
In Year 3 the popular Minnesota theme from the former kindergarten will make its way into the preschool.
The room is set up to help teach the topic. Nature objects, bulletin boards, toys, sensory tables and art all match the theme. “There’s no guessing what we’re learning,” Jasinski said.
At Christmas the kids decorate a Christmas tree and place underneath it items to donate to a food shelf. They put on a Christian Christmas program, with a manger scene and carols, and also sing at a nursing home, where they play games with the residents and present ornaments they have made as gifts.
Through World Vision, the preschool sponsors two children in Mozambique, Africa. Elementary student Hortencilio and preschooler Gressi receive letters, artwork and monetary gifts from Minnesota.
“We ask the kids to donate a dollar a month. If we can send $75 to each at Christmas, World Vision takes them shopping,” Mills said. The African students respond with monthly letters and pictures, including photographs of the purchased items.
Sunshine Preschool includes daily physical activity that reflects the current teaching theme. An outdoor playground gets used most days in the fall and spring.
Favorite activities include running a “driving” course, stopping at stop signs and going over bridges (complete with driver license) and a game where the children pretend to be toys in a store, “freeze” when the music stops and stay quiet—until the store owner leaves, when they come alive again.
The preschool feeds the children healthy snacks such as fruit, whole wheat crackers with cheese, vegetables with dip. Even birthday snacks brought from home have to meet nutrition standards.
Parents find out twice a year, at parent-teacher conferences, what their children have learned. The evaluations, called “I CANs,” tell what each child can and cannot do in case parents want to follow through at home. In May each child gets an extensive memory book from the whole year.
The pre-kindergarten class, for children who are one year away from entering school, includes phonics and sight reading. Students find patterns, sort and classify, recognize and write numbers, add and subtract.
And twice a year sugar enters the picture, when each pre-kindergarten kid gets a cup of M&Ms or jelly beans to graph the number of each color in the cup.
“We want them to be excited about learning, to know that learning is fun,” Jasinski added. “We take that seriously. This is their first experience. We want them to love school.”