Streator’s Holy Trinity Lutheran Nursery School is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Nursery School opened in September 1982 after Janice Gehn, a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, envisioned a nursery school as a way to educate and share Jesus Christ with the children of preschool of the congregation and the community.
During the first year of operation, the nursery school was authorized for 19 children with two classes present from Monday to Wednesday and from Tuesday to Thursday morning. Gehn was the first teacher with Gloria Sass as her assistant. Gehn served from 1982 to 1984.
Each year the number of children in the program grew and the staff changed in 1985 when Hope Majernik took Gehn’s place as principal/teacher. She served from 1985 to 1989.
Another classroom was added in 1987 and Gloria Sass became the program director/teacher. Joy Ahearn was a teacher for a year while Linda Hoekstra joined the staff as a teacher’s aide.
In the fall of 1991 a third classroom was added and Mary Cassady joined the staff as a teacher in this classroom and Hoekstra became a teacher in one of the existing classrooms.
At the start of the 2002-2003 school year, the program was looking for a principal, and Diana Reynolds came on board as teacher and acting principal. In July 2003, Carol Luke joined the team as Principal/Teacher.
Previous teachers have included Maria York, Sandy Reed, Kelly Downey, Patti Loudenback, Melanie Sanders, Lori Pedelty, Deana Ondrey, Erica Heinecke, Sophie Armstrong, Nora Urbanec, Sharon Benner and Carrie Lucas.
Previous teaching assistants have included Debbie Kling, Sue Kovach, Bernardine Eckelkamp, Barbara Cinnamon, Patti Thorp, Debbie Martin, Karen Hichborn, Linda Sawyer, Sally Youngblood, Cindy Schaibley, Margaret Vercimak, Pam Podkanowicz, Sue Ainsley, Renelda Quick , Laura Bradley, Cherie Rinaldo, Amy Pillash, Jennifer Irvin, Erica Snyder, Jennifer Kimber, Tracy Rodriguez, Kathleen Magana and Jamie Cunningham.
Current staff for the 2021-2022 school year includes Carol Luke, Principal/Teacher with Angie Dodge and Samantha Johnson, Teacher Assistants in the Green Room. Tonya Carter, teacher with Cathy Koval as a teacher’s aide in the purple room.
Holy Trinity also mentors Illinois Valley Community College students enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program. These students complete an eight-week internship while teaching under the supervision of the director.
Over the years, the nursery school has welcomed just over 3,100 children. From the beginning, the butterfly has been a symbol of the kindergarten. It symbolizes growth – just like a butterfly emerges from its cocoon to explore its surroundings – children attending preschool are allowed to spread their wings and explore their world in a safe and structured environment. The mission statement of the preschool is: To provide a Christ-centered education for preschool children.
Children who attend kindergarten learn about God through weekly Bible stories, songs, and daily prayers. They are introduced to age and developmentally appropriate activities that will promote spiritual, social/emotional, cognitive and physical development. These skills are learned through the use of Bible stories, learning centers, hands-on experiences, field trips, and indoor/outdoor motor skills. Children are also introduced to the phonics/reading skills they will need in kindergarten through the program’s five-day classes.
Kindergarten is a ministry of the Holy Trinity. In 1992 Reverend John Gutz joined the church as pastor and continues to guide and support the preschool through his example and teachings. Occasionally, Gutz will lead the children in Bible songs with his guitar, tell the weekly Bible story, or simply stop to visit.
Holy Trinity is licensed by the Illinois State Department of Child and Family Services. The Holy Trinity School Board, under the direction of the church board, is also responsible for overseeing the operation of the nursery school.
Anyone wanting more information about any of the courses offered can contact the principal/teacher, Luke, at 815-672-6240 or 815-672-2393.