Morinville – The floor of the Morinville Tiny Tots trailer glistens, reflecting the primary colours of the educational toys and tools resting on it, brightly coloured objects that will soon delight and teach a new crop of students at the Morinville preschool.
But students are not the only thing that is new to the non-profit organization this year. The preschool has a new incoming president, Valerie Daly, who moved to Morinville from Fort McMurray, bringing with her a background in running and operating a preschool.
“I had a lot of background in non-profit preschools,” Daly said, noting that while in Fort McMurray she worked in a preschool there for seven years, served on the school’s board and also provided family resources to the school. “When they were telling me they were looking for a president, I thought, ‘Well, I have some skills that I could lend.’”
But unlike her early years in preschool in Fort McMurray, Daley’s duties will be more a behind-the-scenes role, heading up the committee meetings and structuring the agenda. However, the incoming president does have some ideas she would like to see on that agenda.
“I’d love to help get Tiny Tots more out in the community,” Daly said, adding she’s like to see the preschool taking part in Town parades and the upcoming centennial celebrations. “I’d like more awareness, especially to incoming families to the community, and to really get Tiny Tots [known] because it’s a fantastic program.”
Daly explained the preschool’s program focuses on phonics, language building skills, social skills and colour identification – essentially everything a child needs to prepare them for kindergarten. But it’s not all work. The Tiny Tot’s day is a mixture of educational pursuits combined with physical activity and playtime.
Both Daly and Brenda Ferguson, the organization’s outgoing secretary, attributed the success of the preschool program to the efforts of Tiny Tots’ early childhood educator Phyllis Duffy and teacher’s aide Rhona Reed.
“I think we have a very huge asset in Mrs. Duffy for sure,” Daly said.
Ferguson has had the opportunity to see the benefits of Duffy’s teaching first hand through the reading skills of her own son.
“He latched onto this reading program and he left here reading,” Ferguson said. “It floored me that he could even do it. He got self confidence and self esteem and it was quite impressive to see him come out of his shell. And I think a lot of it had to do with the reading program.”
It is personal stories like Ferguson’s, combined with the efforts of committee members who have been actively promoting the program, that have helped spread the word of Tiny Tots and its value to the community.
“We’ve done a lot of campaigning,” Ferguson said. “We did the trade show this year, and we’ve done a lot more advertising. We made sure we had our name in the Community Guide.”
The results have been such that the preschool is now at maximum capacity with four classes of 12 students, higher levels than they have had in previous years. Tiny Tots runs programs for children aged three and four, with classes for three-year-olds running Tuesdays and Thursdays and classes for four-year-olds running Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“We added the fourth class last year,” Ferguson said. “We usually only ran one three year program. We’ve always had two mornings and afternoons for the four year olds, but we had to add an extra [class] last year.”
The parent-run and parent-owned non-profit has also seen an increase in the number of parents who want to serve on the committee. Ferguson said they currently have 16 parents signed up to serve as committee members, higher numbers than in previous years.
But with the growth in the number of students and the general interest in the preschool, Tiny Tots is faced with the prospect of one day having to move to a larger facility, something the preschool has done a few times over its 36-year existence in Morinville.
As incoming president, Daly said she’d like to see the committee develop a two- and five-year-plan to address the preschool’s future growth. That plan would also include discussions on any potential move for the preschool from its present location, land that is leased to the preschool for $1 per year by the Town of Morinville.
Daly and Ferguson said Tiny Tots are thankful for the support the Town has given them over the years and want to continue to keep that relationship strong.
It is a relationship Morinville’s Mayor Lloyd Bertschi would like to see continue as well.
“We appreciate what Tiny Tots does for the community,” the mayor said. “It’s a great service for getting kids ready for formal education.”