peachtree road storybook

Write down for the coming generation what the Lord has done, so that people not yet born will praise him. – Psalms 102:18

Sharing the History of The Preschool

By Anne Steward

The Methodist Church has a long tradition of supporting and fostering quality education. When the families of our young church were looking for a kindergarten program, they entertained the idea of starting their own school. In 1952, Dr. Charles Cooper, Hazel Wade, and Harold Hill, Sr. proposed the possibility of offering a weekday school for 4 and 5 year olds. According to Jane Hill, Harold Hill’s daughter-in-law, “Mr. Hill wanted a place for his grandchildren to learn within a Christian environment.” Amid much controversy, the commission on Education held several meetings to discuss this proposal, after which it was presented to the Official Board of the church. It was approved on March 2, 1953, and thus was born what we now know, seventy-one years later, as The Preschool of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

The PRUMC Preschool Archive Photo

This fledgling church kindergarten began with thirty 4-year-olds and two teachers…Mrs. Mabel Cushman as Lead, Mrs. Lucy Simson as Assistant… in September of 1953. Its purpose was stated in a letter to the parents of prospective students:

“A Church Kindergarten through the week would help provide our children with a real opportunity to learn the Christian way of life on their own age level. This they do as they live with adults who are expressing Christian ideas and attitudes in thought, word, and deed, and by using interesting material in work and play situations with their peers. It provides unhurried and unharried time for young children to learn how to get along with each other. A Christian way of life cannot be learned in one hour once a week on Sunday morning nor can it be learned by reciting phrases and telling stories. This is a “round-the-clock” process, especially for the young child. The home, church, and school must provide a good environment if the child is to be secure in his world.”

Since its beginning in 1953, The Preschool has continued to thrive. It now includes programs for 12-month-old children through a developmental Five-Six class, with a total student body of 337 and 27 classes, led by a dedicated staff (teachers and administrators) of 73. This outreach ministry of our church reaches many children in the community with an age-appropriate academic curriculum, including special areas of art, music, drama, STEM, and indoor and outdoor playgrounds. 

The PRUMC Preschool Archive Photo
The PRUMC Preschool Archive Photo

If you visit The Preschool on a weekday morning during the school year, be prepared to find a warm, welcoming atmosphere, with the sounds of happy, busy children and the sights of smiling teachers interacting with their “kids” in so many different ways. In this family-friendly environment, many teachers have been working at The Preschool for 20 or more years. In fact, some of them have seen the children of their former students walk through their classroom doors. With fond memories of their own years at The Preschool, these grown-up students wanted their kids to experience the love and joy they experienced. 

The PRUMC Preschool Archive Photo

Since its founding, The Preschool has been blessed with five devoted directors, each of whom has used her own special talents to make our school what it is today: Lucy Simson, Carolyn Brooks, Linda Ibsen, Linda Young, and the current director, Andrea Petsche. In addition, many of the teachers, with their creativity and hard work, have left legacies of excellence in music, art, and academics.

Those of us who have been involved with young children for any length of time realize how important music is to them. Carolyn Brooks, first as music teacher and later as director, brought the music curriculum of The Preschool to the forefront. In addition to weekly music classes for all students, singing, playing rhythm instruments, and dancing have been incorporated into special programs throughout the year. The Thanksgiving Play, Christmas Pageant, Marketplace Week, and Spring performances for parents are some of the wonderful traditions that highlight the musical experiences. Jo Grodzicki, a music teacher for 20+ years at The Preschool, wrote and taught her classes many wonderful songs which were such a vital part of the weekly Chapel services. Her song…”It’s Friday at The Preschool”….is still sung every week in Chapel.

Parents and students alike have many fond memories of their years at The Preschool. When Mrs. Lucy Simson retired after twenty-one years as the director, a parent expressed his love and gratitude for her:

“How can I tell you in words what you have meant to Bette and me, and particularly to Leslie, Aimee, Hayward, and John. Your kindness, understanding, and genuine goodness have made an indelible impression on our children. Bette and I truly feel indeed blessed that our children have been under your influence. It has been a wonderful seven years and we hate to see it close, but we just ran out of five year olds.
May we just simply say “Thank-you.”
Affectionately,
Hayward Cox

Memories of some 4 and 5 year olds from early days are pretty funny:

  • Skipping in the gym while holding hands with my best friend. I tripped over a chord and Mrs. Simson put ice on my bleeding head.
  • Playing dress-up in the housekeeping area. I threw my baseball cap at a boy who was making fun of me and had to sit in Mrs. Beason’s no-fun chair.
  • Watching the eggs in Mrs. Simson’s incubator hatch into baby chickens.
  • Eating buffalo meat (popcorn) in our classroom to celebrate Thanksgiving.
  • Sitting in the no-fun chair (little wooden chair in the corner facing the wall) because I kicked over someone’s block structure.
  • Having my silhouette made….I still have mine!
  • Making handprint paperweights.
  • Playing in the grass yard which was where Grace Hall is now. We had races and dug for worms.
  • Listening to Mrs. Simson reading Sonny Elephant to our class. I had already read it at home so I started to talk to my friend and got in trouble.

During my forty-one years at The Preschool, as a teacher and administrator, every day I came to work with a smile on my face. I experienced a warm, loving place with people I cared about and who cared about me. It wasn’t a job…it was my life. The Preschool family…..teachers, administrators, parents, and children…..will always hold a special place in my heart.

The PRUMC Preschool Archive Photo

The wonderful ladies with whom I taught and worked are my best friends. We still get together to celebrate happy news and to support each other during the sad times. Always part of these gatherings are fond memories of our Preschool days: the children and families we were blessed to know, the fun we had at school, teacher trips, the work we did together to keep our school one of the best preschools in Atlanta, the members of our team that we had lost over the years, all of it. At the forefront of The Preschool is its mission….to offer children a loving, Christian environment in which to play, grow, love, think, and engage.