Every weekday morning, 66 preschool children arrive on the campus of Canyon Lake Community Church (CLCC) excited about the coming day. As the staff hears the chatter in the halls, they realize that they are blessed beyond words to be able to minister to these enthusiastic and promising lives.
One cannot help but catch the excitement as they witness children singing and clapping, learning and absorbing every thought and action of the day. It is not unusual to meet a group of children in a line on their way to the playground singing a song or reciting the alphabet or counting from one to 20.
Stepping into the three classrooms, be it the blue room, purple room, or green room, the atmosphere exclaims “We care about kids!” Colorful murals cover the walls, numbers and letters stimulate the minds and students work is proudly displayed.
But a school isn’t complete without field trips, special days and performances. CLCC Preschool enjoys a number of “on-campus field trips.” Children are filled with excitement as they experience visits from the fire department, the Corona Police Department K9 Unit, waste management, a veterinarian, trophy truck drivers and more.
In addition to special event days, other theme days are incorporated throughout the year: Crazy Sock Day, Disney Day, Crazy Hair Day, Mustache Day, Sports Team Day, Hawaiian Luau, Easter Egg Hunt, Thanksgiving Feasts and whatever other special fun days that come to mind.
Family time is celebrated with events such as Muffins with Mom, Dogs with Dad, and Grandparent Day. Student talents are demonstrated during the annual Christmas and Graduation Programs.
Ten years ago, the thought of a preschool began to surface within the CLCC congregation. Several knew there was a need for a preschool in Canyon Lake to service the many families who were traveling at great distances to find a quality preschool.
Warren Kelsey remembers his thoughts when he first stepped foot on CLCC’s campus. “The first time my family and I walked on the church campus I was challenged with the idea that it was a great location and setting for a preschool. At that time I was in the process of developing a chain of daycare centers in Colorado.”
Canyon Lake Community Church’s staff capitalized on Warren’s thoughts and in 2009 a committee was formed to study the feasibility of having a preschool within Canyon Lake’s borders.
The committee contacted the local governing authorities to learn what codes and regulations needed to be met and in 2010, CLCC Preschool was born.
The school was started with a limited staff and a few children, but in a remarkably short time it grew to 80 children, a staff of 14 and an ever-present “waiting list.”
Once the waiting list was established it never went away. As stated by preschool Director Brittany Youngquist, “We have consistently maintained a lengthy waiting list for seven years. It is very rare that we have a mid-year opening but for the following year families who are placed on the waitlist prior to Jan. 1 have the opportunity to participate in priority registration for the following school year.”
This past year, a parent asked to have their child placed on the waiting list but was unable to give the birth date of the child because the mother just found out that she was expecting.
The school is governed by Brittany, who grew up in Canyon Lake and spent most of her younger years babysitting and working as a junior lifeguard at the lodge pool. She then graduated from the University of Redlands where she pursued her early childhood education units. Her face brightens as she verbalizes, “Once God had set my heart upon early childhood education, I never looked back.”
The teachers at CLCC Preschool use various curriculums as a basis of their lessons but develop their own methods to offer fluidity based on the needs of the individual children and the group as a whole. Extracurricular activities are offered such as the Good News Dance Company which comes to the preschool each Tuesday and Wednesday to teach a hip-hop and a ballet-tap class.
The staff at CLCC Preschool are carefully selected and go through a rigorous system of inquiry.
The educational approach used by the preschool is one of Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP), which essentially means that the educational staff meets children where they are in each stage of development with the individual and group in mind.
The overall goal of DAP is to set achievable yet challenging learning goals and to focus on each child’s unique learning style as they help each child reach those goals.
When asked, “What is your favorite time of the day at CLCC Preschool?” Educator Phylicia Heinze answered, “My favorite time of day at CLCC Preschool is chapel. Each teacher takes a turn to creatively teach a Bible story to the entire school.”
Educator Heather Claudio’s favorite time of the morning is when it’s time to teach the curriculum. “I love watching each child absorb a new academic skill and then apply it after it is taught,” she said.
Parents also share their excitement regarding CLCC Preschool. Canyon Lake parent Shannon Andrews appreciates the teaching of life skills. “My kids have learned how to make friends and handle situations where they feel uncomfortable or have done something wrong.”
Canyon Lake parent Courtney Bye, whose son graduated from the preschool, expresses her confidence by stating, “The teachers in my son’s room closely monitored his progress and provided me updates about where he was excelling and where he needed a little more work. The positive reinforcement in the classroom has been great for his self-esteem when learning new things and trying to read and write.”
Amber Gaudy, also a Canyon Lake parent whose child graduated from the preschool, shares, “We have seen our child make huge strides in his grammar and writing skills. We were very pleased with the curriculum.”
However, the best indicator of how successful a preschool program may be is found in the faces of the children. At CLCC Preschool, the smiles clearly say “Yes, we love our school!”