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St. John’s Lutheran Church kindergarten program going strong

SALISBURY — When parents choose to send their children to kindergarten at St. John’s Lutheran Church, they’re receiving a gift — the gift of time.

The kindergarten began in classrooms under the church chapel in the 1960s. Since then, Director Teresa Stoner said, a pre-kindergarten class has been added, but not upper grades.

For parents who are still trying to make the best decision about education for their child, the simplicity of St. John’s program gives them more time before committing to a particular program or school.

“A lot of times, people are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their kids after kindergarten,” Stoner said.

The half-day structure of the kindergarten program gives stay-at-home parents a little bit of extra time with their children they will not have before a full day of classes as the children get older.

“It gives them that gift of time with their children,” Stoner said.

St. John’s also offers child care for working parents.

Stoner and other teachers believe they accomplish just as much in a half day as other programs accomplish in a full day. Kindergarten teacher Bonita Rowland said all her lessons follow state standards, but she also takes the time to do differentiated instruction for students who might be a little bit ahead or behind.

Just like a regular program, students learn to become confident in reading, writing and math.

“The kindergartners, when they leave from here they’re prepared to go on to first grade,” Stoner said.

Students also learn to navigate technology, and classes have a focus on hands-on learning, Stoner said.

She and Rowland are trying to get the word out. “A lot of people forget that we are here,” Stoner said.

People tend to be more familiar with St. John’s child care center but don’t seem to realize that the church has a small school as well. As far as Stoner and Rowland are aware, the program at St. John’s is one of the few half-day kindergarten programs around.

“There’s a lot of half-day programs around here for prekindergarten, but not that many for kindergarten,” Stoner said.

And it has a long history. Stoner herself attended the kindergarten as a child. Back then, she said, children sat in a circle of chairs, while the teacher played piano and they all sang.

These days, the program has changed drastically. The small school has incorporated technology and Orton-Gillingham literacy techniques, as well as teaching students bits and pieces of sign language and other lessons. And it’s no longer a cookie-cutter approach. Lessons change each year for each child.

“I think we’re always learning, we’re always going back and adding new things. … We hope that every year is different for each child,” Stoner said.

Stoner has been working with the program for 20 years, and Rowland for 21. Together, they think they’ve helped build something to be proud of.

“Whatever their next step is, we get them prepared for that next step,” Stoner said. “And also, they leave here knowing that we love them.”

For more information, visit https://stjohns-salisbury.org/our-schools/kindergarten.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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