Parents’ persistence produces new preschool at St. Stephen’s |

Parents’ persistence produces new preschool at St. Stephen’s

Carrie Click
Staff Writer

It’s Friday, so it must be Chocolate Pudding Finger-paint Day. If, that is, you’re a student at St. Stephen’s Preschool.

The school, housed at St. Stephen’s Catholic School on Hyland Park Drive in Glenwood Springs, opened for business on Oct. 1.

Roseanne Shepard, principal of St. Stephen’s Catholic School, says the idea to start a preschool began with her school’s parents.

“A lot of our families requested we start a preschool here,” she said. “Parents want to be able to make one stop when dropping their children at school.”

Families who already have children enrolled at St. Stephen’s have first priority in admission to the preschool. Older and younger siblings might even spend time with one another during the course of a day.

“We’re small enough that we can do things like send our students to the preschool once a week for story time,” Shepard said. “Our eighth graders read to the preschoolers. It’s good for both groups.”

And though there is religious instruction at the K-8 Catholic school, there isn’t any at the preschool.

“We don’t teach religion,” said St. Stephen’s Preschool director Jessica Riddle. “We’re open to everyone. Except for a thank-you prayer we recite, there’s no religious curriculum.”

Part of the reason is the preschool admits children from two government-funded programs, one for high-risk children and another for children of parents studying for their GED or learning English as a Second Language. Colorado state licensing regulations for preschools do not allow religious instruction at schools that are part of these programs.

Riddle says the preschool years are an important time of change in a child’s life.

“Preschool is the transition from home to school,” she said. “The preschool’s quality is determined by the person running the school, the equipment available, and the support system the school has. We have an excellent support system here.”

St. Stephen’s principal has high praise for Riddle as well.

“Jessica is a great, warm, loving person,” Shepard said. “She gives kids a real sense of security and belonging.”

That sense is reflected in Riddle’s teaching philosophy.

“We help each child have more positive feelings about him- or herself,” she said. “This includes confidence in the ability to learn, increased self-control and positive relationships.”

To accomplish this, Riddle designs art project calendars and daily activity schedules for her young charges. Every day Riddle presents her students with a different art activity. Wednesday was Wax Pictures Day. Next Tuesday is Make Trick-or-Treat Bags Day. Days are divided into 20- to 45-minute blocks, breaking into activities like self-directed playtime, story time, free play, nap time and circle time.

Riddle has a degree in early childhood education from Colorado Mountain College, and is a licensed preschool director. She has taught Montessori school and children’s art classes. In addition, she has worked with the Children’s House Preschool in Rifle, and Evenstart programs in Rifle and Glenwood Springs.

“Because I have a variety of teaching experiences, I use a blend of curriculum with my students,” she said.

Riddle also says it’s her experiences as a mother and a grandmother that have prepared her for her career with kids – and her work at St. Stephen’s.

“My perspective is that I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect situation,” she said. “I’m very excited about being here.”

Currently, eight children are enrolled in a variety of half-day, full-day, part-time and full-time sessions. Riddle said she’s one child away from hiring another teacher. The school can take up to 15 students.

St. Stephen’s Preschool tuition ranges from $165 a month for half-day Tuesday and Thursday enrollment, to $690 a month for five full days a week. For more information contact Jessica Riddle at 945-7746.

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