By JAMIE NULL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD — On Wednesday afternoon, dozens of tadpoles were swimming in a tank in one of Westminster Preschool’s classrooms. The children, ages 2 through 5, had already left for the day. Director and teacher Linda Mullennex said, “They won’t get to see them turn into frogs ... classes end on Friday for the summer.”
She plans to take the tadpoles to a nearby creek.
In another classroom, peel and stick wiggle eyes on plain white paper stared back at visitors. One had to wonder what the final project would look like in a few days.
The school year closes as Westminster secures reaccreditation with the Association of Christian Schools International. It is one of two preschools in the state of West Virginia accredited by the ASCI.
According to Mullennex, the school received their initial accreditation in July of 2009.
“The accreditation took us several years,” she said. “The reaccreditation took us a year.”
The preschool must submit self-studies, peer reviews of curriculum, spiritual needs reviews, community relations, instruction and more. All information is put into a book and submitted to the ASCI, who send a team to the preschool. The team spends three days interviewing staff and parents and observing the school. A recommendation is made to the regional committee.
Mullennex has spent 20 years of her career inside the walls of Westminster Preschool. Her office is a blend of administration and play for children who use the room as a workshop.
She calls her job “a dream” but it was not her first choice.
“My first degree was in journalism,” Mullennex said. “I was in radio and TV. Then, I had children and I just loved being with them.”
She went back to school for education. After a long-term sub job was over, she called her children’s preschool, which was Westminster. There were six teaching positions open in July of 1994
“It was my dream job all along, working with small children. It has been a privilege to be with them everyday,” she added.
Mullennex is one of eight teachers. Dora Aylor, Eva Brown, Pam Browning, Susan Clapp, Bridget Hoosier, Robin Morris and Heather Shockley on staff.
“We really do support each other,” Mullennex said. “These group of ladies are like a second family.”
When asked to define each teacher with one word, Mullennex seemed perplexed. She couldn’t narrow it down to just one word. She had several
“Dora is retiring. She is wise and patient. Eva seems to know everybody in Bluefield. She is a bus driver and a teacher and always willing to help. Pam is musical. We ask her for help.
Susan is so artistic. We go to her for the finishing touch. Bridget, also retiring, is flexible since she works with the beginners — potty training. Robin is cool and collected. Nothing flusters her. Heather is our smiling optimist,” Mullennex said.
Seventy-five students come through the doors of Westminster each week. The tuition-based preschool allows parents options such as how many days per week they send their children.
“It also gives families more control over their children’s environment and what they are exposed to and what they learn,” Mullennex said.
The spiritual component of Westminster is important to the staff.
“It is integrated into every subject. It influences everything,” she added.
Mullennex believes preschools are important tools in the community, especially for young children.
“They can learn letters and numbers from mom and dad. Preschools help them to socially adapt when they get to the classroom,” she said.
Public schools have large classrooms. She said, “It is a huge adjustment.”
Lisa Kidd, from Bluefield, Va., has sent both of her children to Westminster. This is her daughter’s fourth and final year. Her son spent two years at the preschool.
“They are both very ready for school. They know how to act and be part of a class. They love school and want to learn,” Kidd said.
She believes preschools are important because children are expected to come into kindergarten prepared to learn. Another mother, Sara Sheets, also of Bluefield, Va., sends her 2-year-old daughter to Toddler Time.
It will help transition her daughter to preschool and also help her develop social skills outside the home.
“She is more independent and self-confident,” Sheets said.
Westminster Preschool has been teaching students for more than 60 years. The school’s first classrooms were for primary students, then kindergartners and now, preschoolers. To learn more, visit www.wpcbluefield.com or call 304-324-0987.