By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Editor | Published September 6, 2022
MARIETTA—For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff of parish preschools in the Archdiocese of Atlanta were able to gather for the Preschool Institute—a time of fellowship and learning.
The Office of Catholic Schools hosted the event at Holy Family Church, Marietta, Aug. 12.
“Really the strength of our Catholic preschools is community,” said Mary Jo Nichols, director of the Parish Preschool Program of the archdiocese.
Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, a longtime educator, opened the event with prayer.
“He acknowledged just how difficult the past two years have been,” said Nichols. “He inspired us.”
She selected a Scripture to set the tone for the day: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7)
The institute included breakfast and hospitality time, and then sessions of learning on various topics including the joys of a garden classroom, dealing with challenging behaviors, inclusion and one on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Some 325 preschool staff members attended the event.
Nichols said door prizes were part of the fun, and she presented awards for varying levels of service.
Preschool staff earning awards for 30 or more years of teaching little ones are: Martha Collins, 30 years at St. Ann Preschool; Alice Hopper, 30 years at St. John Neumann Preschool and Sandra Foltz, 32 years, director at St. Benedict Preschool.
Foltz has attended many institutes over her three-plus decades of service.
“We have not had the opportunity in the past couple of years due to COVID and we were so excited that it returned to us this year,” she said. “It is a wonderful way to meet with fellow teachers and directors in the archdiocese to share new ideas and encourage each other for the upcoming school year.
One of St. Benedict’s teachers, Patty Xibille, was also a session presenter.
It was Joleen Neel’s first time attending the institute. She is director of the Christ the King Preschool at Second-Ponce, which just opened.
“I particularly enjoyed the talk on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, because the program presents our Catholic faith to preschool children in a developmentally appropriate way,” said Neel.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Nichols noted that enrollment in Catholic preschools is steady now. “We’re in a good place,” she said.
In addition to the new preschool collaboration between the Cathedral of Christ the King and Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta, another preschool opened at St. Marguerite d’Youville Church in Lawrenceville, named The Academy for Little Lambs.