LEXINGTON — “The Pink House on the Corner,” as it known, is looking for community donations during the Lexington Community Foundation’s Give BIG Lexington event on Nov. 14.
Shining Star Preschool is a non-profit preschool operated by the First United Methodist Church, their mission is to nurture children in the areas of physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual development. The preschool has been in operation for over 20 years.
“It has been the mission of the church to provide early learning to all the children of Lexington,” Director Christy Treffer said.
Shining Star provides a unique experience for children 3-6 years old with play, art, music and recreation while incorporating academics, according to their Give BIG Lexington page.
Hands on learning and free play are a hallmark of the way Shining Star Preschool operates. Treffer said this is the way it was set up when Melanie Shubert was director. “She did her homework,” Treffer said of Shubert, “she set up a wonderful program and we have continued to provide that.”
Shining Star Preschool was born out of a desire of the congregation of the FUMC in the late 1990s to offer early childhood education, at the time there was no public preschool.
The preschool was first hosted in the church basement, this was the location when Shubert became director in the fall of 1997. The decision was made to move the preschool the location it currently occupies, the pink house on the corner 8th and Jackson St., but it wasn’t always pink.
Shubert said she spent the summer of 1998 painting the preschool its now recognizable color and prepping the inside for a preschool friendly environment, the location had formerly been a residence.
Of the curriculum, Shubert said other preschools taught units which were a week long, she modified this so the unit lasted as long as it needed. She structured the some of the units around one thing many children have a fascination in, animals.
This was a “good jumping off point,” into other areas of learning including colors, letters, shapes, etc. Some of the units still taught today at Shining Star include, polar animals, the ocean, the desert, African Savannah, the farm, North American Forest, Great Plains, rivers, insects, birds, maps, seeds, etc.
Aside from longer units, Shubert also sought a “more childlike learning situation, rather than adult led learning.” While there are certain centers for dress up, toys, books, puzzles, blocks, etc., the students are not beholden to these centers and can play and interact as they wish during their free time.
Shubert said she felt children explore and learn better when they are not under time pressure and they should be allowed to mix things up while they learn.
Reading was also a major focus, Shubert said she believed in reading one book a day out loud to the children. She also set books out for the students to look at, while they were not reading the books, she would still asked them about what they saw, what colors there were, etc.
There is also a bilingual aspect, during calendar time, when the students learn about the days of the week, it is taught in both English and Spanish. Numbers are also taught in both languages as well.
This freedom to try a different learning style came from the support of the congregation and the parents, Shubert said.
Today, in 2019, this model is still being followed at Shining Star, “it’s a unique hands on way of learning,” Treffer said.
Another aspect which may be appealing to parents is the preschool’s ability to also celebrate Christian holidays, being operated by the FUMC, and to have spiritual lessons in addition to the basic education. The preschool also celebrates Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
“It’s a chance to educate young people and a chance to show them Christian belief,” Treffer said, “some students have not heard about the story of Jesus and to be a part of that experience is pretty huge.”
Treffer has been the preschool director for four years, but has been involved with Shining Star for 10 years, she was previously an assistant. The current assistant is Kristin Truax, who is on her third year at this position.
The director before Treffer was Sarah Neben, who had worked as an assistant under Shubert before becoming the director herself, she was involved in Shining Star for nine years and was director for six.
“Shining Star Preschool is such a special place for younger people,” she said.
Neben valued the lower student to teacher ratio, which allowed more in depth interactions with the children. “The lower ration allowed for a more one on one teaching experience for the children,” she said, “this helped prepare them for their later education.
Treffer noted with the lower ratio, they are able to recognize the specific needs of each child
After such close interaction, Neben said the children who attend become a part of the family, she noted the first class she taught as director are now seniors in high school.
All of Neben’s five children attended Shining Star Preschool before she became an assistant and the director. “I was so pleased with the education they received.”
“The ‘little pink house on the corner,’ is truly a special place,” said Neben.
Treffer said kindergarten teachers have told her the students who attended Shining Star Preschool are well prepared, not only from an educational standpoint, but in other life skills, such as their social and emotional skills.
Jess and Annalise McHarge currently have their son, Mercer enrolled in Shining Star Preschool.
“My wife and I believe in the research, that free play is important at that age,” Jess McHarge said, “Mercer has loved every second of it, he is really thriving.”
McHarge noted Mercer is passionate about learning at preschool even after just a short time of two months. “He loves the teachers,” McHarge noted.
“We value the Christian based institution,” he said of the preschool, “We are excited about what they have to offer.”
McHarge said Annalise appreciates the lower student to teacher ratio, saying it is a positive for the students.
Even though Shining Star is operated by the Methodist Church, it is open to all children, regardless of church affiliation.
Shining Star Preschool offers different classes, two on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for four to five year olds, one which goes from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and a the other, 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., tuition for these classes is $75 per month.
The other class is for three to four year olds and it occurs Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., tuition is $65 a month.
There are a limited number of scholarships for half-tuition available for families who are in the greatest need.
Treffer said the preschool meets Department of Health and Human Services early childhood guidelines and they continue to meet annual educational requirements. Both Treffer and Truax are CPR and first aid certified.
Shining Star also has the same access to educational specialists the Early Learning Academy does, such as early intervention specialists and a speech pathologist.
“As we continue to develop creative and resourceful children for the future we ask that you join us with a generous financial gift that will help our ongoing commitment to developing vital early learning experiences for all children in our community,” according to their Give BIG Lexington page.
“This is a mission of the church, but as a non-profit, we are asking the community to join us in this mission to educate and provide a fun safe space for children,” Treffer said.
Give BIG Lexington is fast approaching on Nov. 14. Donate to Shining Star Preschool online at https://www.givebiglexington.org/ or head over to the Dawson County Annex Building and donate in person.