MINNEOTA - For the first time ever, St. Edward's Catholic School in Minneota has kindergarten students under its roof.
Prior to the 2011-2012 school year, kindergarten-age children typically attended classes at the Minneota Public School. When the first-grade year rolled around, approximately 12-15 of them switched over to St. Ed's, while the rest remained at the public school.
"We have a good partnership," said St. Ed's principal Jason Myhre, who attended both schools when he was growing up. "The difference is that kids can have God talked about in their everyday life, where in a public school, you can't have that. We're certainly happy to have the opportunity to offer kindergarten to the parents."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Starting the 2011-12 school year, April Lynne, left, Destin Fier, Grace Hennen, Sam Skorczewski, Faith Myhre and Shantal Pearcy (not pictured) are the first kindergarten students at St. Edward Catholic School in Minneota. Allison Peterson, behind, is their kindergarten teacher.
Talk of adding kindergarten had circulated around town for a number of years, Myhre said. But it took a large donation left by the family of the late Mary Ann DeSutter to actually make it happen.
"Mary Ann was my junior high teacher when I was here," Myhre said. "She passed away and her family donated a bunch of money. That paid for the start of kindergarten, to remodel the downstairs so we could have a kindergarten room."
St. Ed's was the last of the New Ulm diocese, comprised of approximately 15 schools, to offer kindergarten classes to families in the community.
Six students are currently part of the first-ever kindergarten class at the school, including Myhre's daughter Faith.
"I have four children and we're expecting in November," Myhre said. "Three of them are here at St. Ed's. Faith gets to be part of the first kindergarten."
Myhre, who began principal duties on Aug. 1, was born and raised in Minneota, attending St. Ed's through eighth grade and then graduating from Minneota High School. The primary difference between the two schools is the faith aspect, he said.
"For me to be able to come back and be the principal of the school I graduated from is quite an honor," Myhre said. "I have a lot of respect for what they do at the public school, too. I was a graduate from there and our students move over there. We have a good working relationship with the public school and we want to keep that."
Instead of students moving over to St. Ed's in first grade, they now have the option to start there in kindergarten.
"It's fun to be part of it," said kindergarten teacher Allison Peterson, who previously assisted at the Marshall East Child Care, which is part of Marshall East Campus Learning Alternative school. "This room used to be the computer lab. They took part of the music room and turned it into the computer lab. They moved all the computers over to make this a kindergarten room."
The new room is spacious, colorful and inviting, which Peterson appreciates.
"I like that we have lots of room for centers to be away from the actual table-learning areas," she said. "There is plenty of room for them to move around and do hands-on activities."
With six students in the class, Peterson, who is from Marshall, can also spend more one-on-one time with each of them.
"It's small so we can do more individual-based things during lessons rather than having to break out into small groups," Peterson said. "Basically, the lesson is a small group in itself. I can do one-on-one during the lesson so other students gets to watch at the same time. That benefits their own learning by having more repetition with whatever we're learning."
The students have already become great friends, Peterson said. They also encourage each other. One of the highlights for kindergartners last week was meeting their "guardian angels."
"The kindergartners have sixth-graders for 'guardian angels,' Peterson said. "Each one has about three 'guardian angels' matched up with them. They ate lunch together last week. We'll do an event one time a month with them."
The special groups will also sit together at Mass or do projects together when holidays come around.
"Allison is a really great teacher," Myhre said. "She's been doing a really wonderful job."
Small class sizes are a benefit at St. Ed's, too, Myhre and Peterson said. Currently, the school has 131 students, including 14 first-graders. The largest class, the seventh grade, has 23 students.
"We average around 14-15," Myhre said. "This year in general, there is a small kindergarten class, even at the public school."
St. Ed's doors are also open to children who are not from the Catholic faith.
"We promote Christian principles, and while the Catholic faith is presented, it's never pushed on anyone," Myhre said. "They'll never feel out of place by not participating in any of the religious aspects of it. They can come to Mass and participate. I think the more we understand each other's faith, the better we get along."
While in an administrative role, Myhre prides himself in working with staff and for the students. He's especially values his relationship with eighth-grade teacher Brenda Verschelde, who taught Myhre when he was at St. Ed's.
"It's fun and we get along," he said. "The working relationship is great. I'm here to help the teachers and work with them. I try to model the leadership role that Christ had presented to us, and that is to be the servant to those that you're working for."