A Reflection by Eileen Sharbaugh, Nursery School Director
Earlier in the school year, I attended the National Association of Episcopal School (NAES) Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, and had numerous takeaways from the three-day gathering. I learned a great deal about other Episcopal nursery school programs including ways they live out their Episcopal identity. It was quite confirming that St. Paul’s Episcopal Nursery School is not only a healthy and vibrant program but also is well aligned with many of the five hundred and seventy-seven other early childhood Episcopal school programs who also belong to NAES.
One of the highlights of the conference was the opening Eucharist celebrated by Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry.Energetic and thoughtful he shared with the over five hundred teachers, heads of school and staff gathered in the hotel ballroom, “Each day, it is our own love for what we do, and the feeling we have for those we teach and care for, that serves as a true revelation—to those who are searching for models of lives given in service, or to those who are caught surprised by what we do. Our impact is far greater than we can imagine. We are telling our students that we know them at a very deep level.”
I imagine Bishop Curry is right, the impact St. Paul’s Episcopal Nursery School has on children and families is likely far greater than we can ever really know or imagine.The genuine connections we are able to make with children and families by providing a welcoming environment, as well as the ongoing work we do to create a place of true belonging, is no small thing.
The nursery school staff, many who have been at the school for more than a decade, have a strong passion for the work they do as teachers at the school.They recognize the value of connecting with children and families in a deep and genuine way. Beginning with the home visits made to each child’s home by the teachers in August, continuing the year with Parent Visiting Days, Open Houses, Santa Breakfast and time set aside for Parent-Teacher Conferences, the relationships with the children and families in our school are given the highest priority.The low student-teacher ratio in the classrooms allows the staff to get to know, nurture, and honor the uniqueness of each child.
Certainly, providing an excellent early childhood education is also a high priority and is done with genuine care.Teachers skillfully guide and challenge students with meaningful hands-on experiences which help them grow. The school provides many and varied opportunities to socialize. We know that young children develop and learn in the context of relationships and that their social and emotional health affects their overall development. A trusting and caring teacher-child relationship is foundational to the development of the whole child.
It is wonderful to know that after 61 years the purpose of St. Paul’s Episcopal Nursery School, as written in the school’s by-laws in 1957, still holds true today:The purpose of St. Paul’s Episcopal Nursery School, as a ministry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, is to operate a nursery school providing an excellent early childhood education, based on a foundation of Christian love that guides and challenges all who attend the school to build lives of genuine meaning, purpose and service in the world that they will inherit.
“Let all that you do be done with love” 1 Corinthians 16:14