Over the past 50 years, 2,600 students have passed through the
classrooms at Hiland Presbyterian Church Pre-School as they move on to
bigger and better things. In recognition of this half-century
milestone, the school and the church that spawned and continues to
support it will come together for a celebration Sunday.
The Ross preschool has handled children 3 and 4 years old in batches of
a dozen to 15 on a daily basis, with morning and early afternoon cadres
learning, singing, making crafts and working together for these many
years. So long, in fact, that the current board chairwoman actually
attended the school and many parents of current students are alumni.
"We have gotten to the point where we've had students of our students,"
said Elaine Hartswick who has taught at the preschool for 27 years.
"We've seen our students graduate professionally as doctors and lawyers
and various successes," she said.
Perhaps most gratifying is speaking to those past students, now adults,
who count Hiland as one of the reasons they've gone on to do so well.
"They normally say, 'Well, it was the good start I got [at Hiland,]'
Much has changed over the years, she said. The preschool was originally
formed to "put to good use" the educational building the church built
in 1954. Tuition back then was $15 per month and it's first brochure
lists its mission as providing "facilities for children to consume
their excess energy and to satisfy their curiosity."
Today, tuition is $75 to $95 a month, depending upon age and program.
Any mission statement now would have to add an emphasis on academics
and kindergarten preparedness.
"They're finding out that kindergartens want the kids from preschool to
be pretty much academically oriented," said Hiland teacher Carol
"So we stress the ABC's and counting more now, [as well as] making them
feel safe in the community -- and leaving their parents for the first
time and getting used to children their age."
The anniversary celebration Sunday will kick off at church services at
9:45 a.m. and feature past students, volunteers and teachers,
recognition of those who help keep the school's scholarship program
active, and a retrospective presentation.
In evolving over the years to keep up with the little ones and their
needs, Hiland leaned on the support of the church, volunteers and
especially parental support to continue living up to its goals.
"When my son started in 1987, there weren't that many preschools, but I
was just really comfortable with the program," said Marcie Hoffman.
"But it's the warmth of the teachers. They really love these children
and really want to see them be the best they can be."
Hoffman lent a hand to the preschool in many capacities over the years
after her three children attended Hiland, serving as board president
and organizing the school's biannual children's clothing sale which
this year falls on Sept. 24.
"We always have a lot of parent involvement," said Patricia Peters, who
teaches 3-year olds at Hiland. "Current parents are always involved
with parties and activities."
But for Peters, what makes Hiland special is what it offers the
"I just think all the kids can come in: any race, any physical
problems--any problems, they can come in and be accepted at the
preschool," she said.
"That's what kept me there," said Hartswick, "the children. They were
wonderful. It's a place where you work on self-esteem and learn to play
"You watch these little 3-year-olds with tears in their eyes, who don't
want to leave their mothers, but progress over those two years, growing
and getting that confidence to say, 'Bye Mom.' "
First published on September 15, 2005 at 12:00 am
Philip A. Stephenson can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org