Seventy years later, focus same for Salem First Presbyterian Preschool

SALEM – After 70 years of existence, the Salem First Presbyterian Preschool remains focused on fun and keeping children actively involved for the best learning environment.

“We hope when they leave us that they have the feeling of ‘comfort in my own skin in this thing called school,’” preschool Director Sue Skiba said.

The actual anniversary falls with the beginning of the next school year, but they decided to start the celebrating a little early and placed a sign outside to recognize the occasion.

Genevieve Dunn, a member of the church, had been teaching preschool and kindergarten classes in her home and then moved them to the church, first meeting in the First Presbyterian Church education hallway for the 1944-1945 school year. She served as teacher and director for many years.

According to Skiba, Dunn was an excellent educator and her philosophy of education is still the foundation of the preschool: “children will learn best if they are actively involved and having fun.”

Instead of holding a graduation, the students show off what they’ve been learning all year. During a recent monthly luncheon of the Daytimers group at the church, the two Pre-K classes joined together to sing songs they had learned, songs which related to their lessons.

“We try to have a well-rounded curriculum that’s fun,” Skiba said.

The preschool offers a two-day junior class for 3-year-olds and early 4-year-olds and a three-day pre-K class for 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds, from September to May. The teachers use very little lecture-type teaching. They play and use activities, but Skiba said they’re very academic in nature.

Each teacher has their own specialty and their own way of educating the children, whether it’s singing, game playing or rhyming. For Skiba, it’s singing.

“A teacher has to teach in a style that matches their personality,” she said, using the gifts they have.

Skiba talked about the importance of preschool to get children ready for kindergarten and regular school, including working on their social skills.

“They need a stepping stone,” she said.

Besides Skiba, the teaching staff includes Elaine Tuel, Betty Jo Jessop and Lisa Shafer. Skiba is only the fourth director in the past 70 years, following in the footsteps of Dunn, Carol Ricciardi and Martha Justice.

To learn more about the preschool, visit the First Presbyterian Preschool Facebook page or call 330-332-8620.