St. Francis of Assisi Preschool has appointed Marianne Keith of Weston as the school’s new director, a post she will assume in September. The preschool is located at the parish, in the heart of town, at 35 Norfield Road.
Ms. Keith arrives at St. Francis with teaching experience 20 years strong. A native Westonite, Ms. Keith obtained her bachelor of science degree in English literature from Manhattanville College and went on to received a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Bridgeport. Ms. Keith has taught at both the elementary and preschool level, was a preschool director at New Canaan’s Top of the Rainbow and a program coordinator at St. Paul’s Preschool in Westport.
In addition, she was a mentor teacher at Norwalk Community College and a preschool consultant for children with special needs. Ms. Keith now resides in Weston with her husband and three children.
“Marianne is an all-star teacher and beloved person in both the parish and community at large. She will be the consummate director of our preschool,” said St. Francis pastor Father Michael Dunn.
Ms. Keith’s appointment to director coincides with the town’s instatement of full-day kindergarten and the preschool’s curriculum will reflect that. “Children are born with an innate desire to learn. At. St. Francis, we are committed to developing well-rounded children and lifelong learners, able to reach their potential. Both our pre-literacy and pre-math programs will ensure students are equipped for their elementary years,” said Ms. Keith.
Father Dunn and Ms. Keith seek to create a balanced program that turns out students who emerge confident with a pre-K skill set. “After graduating St. Francis Preschool, my daughter, Allison, made a wonderful transition to kindergarten both academically and socially,” said former preschool parent Laurie Eidt.
St. Francis of Assisi Preschool was founded in 1999 and is one of Fairfield County’s only Catholic preschool programs. Though parish-run, children of all denominations attend. The school is accredited by the State of Connecticut and its philosophy centers around both play and age-appropriate academics. In addition, the preschool regularly uses an educational consultant and publishes lesson plans for parents’ review. Housed in the parish hall facility, the preschool has a well-lit and contemporary setting.
The preschool was the brainchild of former pastor Msgr. Nicholas Grieco, whose passion for education spurred him to erect a parish preschool. The current pastor, Father Dunn, visits the 2s, 3s and 4s weekly and ensures the school mission — caring for children’s overall growth and development — continues.
“Our preschool is an integral part of the parish. It not only provides the academics that are stepping stones for kindergarten, but nurtures the children’s faith life and fosters self-discovery and a respect for others,” said Father Dunn.
The preschool offers the following year-round programming: “Bright Beginnings,” a drop-off (two or three-day) class for 2s (toilet-training is not necessary), a 3s program offering three or five days of instruction, and a 4s program, with a four- or five-day option. Parents may enroll three- and four-year olds in the extended day enrichment classes, which take place from noon to 2 and include many activities. “Lunch Bunch” incorporates lunch, music, movement, crafts, and outdoor play. “Cooking” has students prepare edible treats as they learn self-help skills, reading and math concepts, nutrition, and task completion. “Pre-Literacy Skills,” though included in the regular curriculum, is a separate session open to all 4s, and lays the foundation for literate thinking through reading, rhyming, and story-telling. And “Heathy Kids,” a combination of sports, exercise, and games, will return for the 2012-13 school year.
Based on current demand, a Mommy and Me once-a-week, year-round class for parents and children 18 months to two years old, will be added to the preschool schedule. “Our Mommy and Me program allows parents to observe their child’s unique nature and help them participate in meaningful, age-appropriate activities,” Ms. Keith added. St. Francis also offers a three-week camp for preschoolers, immediately following their school year.
In recent years, the school’s staff has sought to broaden the curriculum, specifically with the addition of technology, foreign language, and social science instruction. Ms. Keith wishes to instill much in her young students. “It is of utmost importance to integrate skills and knowledge essential to the whole child’s development. In a nurturing, creative and educationally rich environment, attributes such as confidence and enthusiasm will flourish and help students progress in elementary school and beyond. In addition to our focus on kindergarden readiness, we try to instill a sense compassion in our students,” added Ms. Keith.
The school’s community outreach has included sending Halloween candy and toothbrushes to troops in Iraq, donating toys during the holidays, and collecting baby and maternity clothes for underprivileged mothers. The preschool even adopted a second grade class from Roberto Clemente Elementary School in New Haven, to which they donated books-on-tape, backpacks, winter wear and school supplies. Ms. Keith will oversee the school’s Preschool Council, fund-raisers, monthly newsletter, Field Day, annual Christmas Pageant, graduation, and yearbook production.
Fall enrollment for the preschool is still open. To register, visit the school or call Ms. Keith at 203-984-7586. An open house will be planned prior to the onset of the 2012 school year, including time with the director and a tour. Details are to be posted on the St. Francis website, www.sfaparish.com.