Across from the Shelburne Parade Grounds tucked beneath the old stone church are five classrooms that make up the Shelburne Nursery School (SNS), a parent cooperative that has been preparing children for kindergarten for the last sixty years.
At 8 am amid a morning scene of productive chaos, Sheri Hill, who has been an assistant teacher since 2008 and headteacher Joanne Buermann stand in the main hallway greeting students and chatting with parents who are attempting to herd their children in the proper direction.
“Story actually started out at a different preschool which had more hours and flexibility, but I never saw any of the parents, I didn’t know any of the kids that Story was playing with, and I didn’t feel much of a connection,” Julie Holmes wrote in an email. “I still wanted to be part of his education. I love how you get to know the other families at SNS. My older kids are in junior high now, and their closest buddies are still the kids they went to Nursery School with! We also are still friends with those families. I also feel like my kids were ready for Kindergarten. They were already starting to recognize words, were comfortable in different social situations and knew how to sit in a circle and listen to each other.”
At 8:15, with the exception of a few haired parents hurrying their children along, the hallway is nearly empty. The other children have made their way to one of the classrooms for some free play. Two are steering a pint-sized ship made of wood, cardboard and other various odds and ends created and built by assistant teacher Diane Marcotte, who is the school’s artist and creator in residence. The school serves children ages 3-5. The three-year-olds attend class Tuesday and Thursday mornings and the four-year-olds attend class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with an option to enroll in a more academic-focused Tuesday and Thursday afternoon session. After a brief time of free play, a school-wide circle time begins the academic portion of the day. During this time younger children will dress Willa the weather bear, work on shape recognition or do a color scavenger hunt. The older children talk about the calendar and weather graph as well as say the Pledge of Allegiance, before breaking off into smaller groups.
“I really liked the small ratio of teacher to students. They provide the perfect balance of nurturing, social time with both their peers, parents and teachers, academics, and provide a schedule at the school that prepares them for kindergarten,” wrote Jenna Mazur, who had two children that attended SNS.
The small class size, sense of community and the teachers’ clear love for their jobs and the children that they teach are a major draw for many families who attended SNS. It certainly was for us. Our youngest Luke has grown exponentially since starting in the fall and Noah, our oldest, walks into kindergarten with an air of confidence and love for learning that was greatly influenced by his time at Shelburne Nursery School.