Susan Klein reads The Very Hungry Caterpillar to Randolph College Nursery School children.
Two small children carefully stack wooden blocks to create skyscrapers in their city as another child bounces around showing off her favorite floppy hat and purse ensemble. In another area, a teacher praises a preschooler for his use of color on a drawing while his classmates dig in the indoor sandbox.
It is just another day of “work” in the Randolph College Nursery School, where teachers, staff, and students take play-based learning seriously. Long known in the community for its excellent child centered curriculum, Randolph College’s preschool program has now been recognized by the Commonwealth as one of the best preschools in Virginia.
Randolph College’s Nursery School was one of just 31 childcare providers to receive a four-star rating this fall from the Virginia Star Quality Initiative, a new voluntary quality rating and improvement system for early learning programs. The four-star rating is the highest given to date.
“This was an intense, year-long process, but the commitment was worth the time,” said Holly Layne, director of Randolph College’s preschool program. “We were proud to learn we had received four stars because the rating validates that we are providing a high-quality early childhood experience for our children. Quality childcare is vital to ensuring that all children enter school prepared to succeed, not just academically, but in life.”
The Virginia Star Quality Initiative is a system designed to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early child care and education settings that families consider for their children.
Smart Beginnings Central Virginia is coordinating the effort regionally with early childhood educators. Randolph College was one of just two local early childcare providers to receive four stars.
“The Virginia Star Quality Initiative is much more than a rating; it recognizes provider achievements and improvements in quality.” said Phylis Benner, special projects manager for the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. “A program with a star rating has exceeded required standards and is on a quality improvement path, assures parents of its focus on providing high quality experiences for all children and reflects a culture of commitment to excellence among staff.”
Nursery schoolers clown around with Lynchburg police chief Parks Snead.
Randolph College’s Nursery School first opened in 1943 to serve the needs of College faculty and staff members and others in the Lynchburg community. Today, the preschool program is known as one of the best in Lynchburg and provides a child-centered education to 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds.
Jen Brestel ’93 knows firsthand about the quality of the preschool. Both of her sons have attended the school. “I always say this is the happiest place on earth,” said Brestel, who works in Institutional Advancement. “I’ve seen how the top-notch curriculum, the outstanding music program, and the amazing teachers and ‘College friends’ have had a positive impact on my two sons’ lives.”
She credits the individualized attention and the focus on exploration and play for creating a unique environment for the “juniors” and “seniors” enrolled.
“It is this work that lays the foundation for their future schooling,” Brestel said. “Academically speaking, the children who attend Randolph College’s Nursery School enter kindergarten well-prepared.
More importantly, though, the children learn what it means to be a good citizen: conflict resolution skills, kindness for all people, respect for diversity and individualism, and self-confidence to achieve great things. I credit much of this to the love and respect the child feels from his teachers, peers and College friends.”