Editor’s note: The following was submitted by Gloria Dei Early Learning Center.
Gloria Dei Early Learning Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary in the Mining City, teaching children with the same activities and hands-on exercises that spurred its creation.
What started as Winnie the Pooh Preschool carries on the same style of teaching today in subjects including science, math and art. Its teachers have made a connection with numerous students over the years, while encouraging parents to volunteer in the classroom and become involved in their child’s learning.
In the beginning, Butte had just one preschool located in the old Uptown YMCA. The director of that school, Jackie Boyd Scalabrin, realized a need in the community and encouraged Karen Anderwald — a recent graduate in early childhood education — to open a new school.
Scalabrin, a member of Gloria Dei Lutheran, and Anderwald pitched the idea to Pastor Warren Pechman and the church council, which gave permission to rent space in its basement.
Anderwald directed and taught at Winnie the Pooh Preschool, and hired Renea Lewis to help her. Lewis would go on to work at the school for more than 12 years.
When Pastor Jerry Lynch came to Gloria Dei in 1985, he realized the school’s potential as a ministry in the community. Under his direction, the school became part of the church’s fold.
Pastor Phil Wold officially changed the name of Winnie the Pooh Preschool to Gloria Dei Early Learning Center in 1993, reflecting its change in ownership. Anderwald eventually resigned in 1995 after 20 years to accept a position with Head Start, and the school hired Linda Jourdanaisse as director.
Jourdanaisse left after one year, making way for Cathy Nickisch. Nickisch hired Sue Mazurek and then Julie Eklund as teachers, with Eklund ultimately taking over as director in 2002.
By 2004, Eklund left Butte with her husband for Helena, and Nickisch helped hire Maria Biastoch to make the transition. Melissa Schneider, who attended Winnie the Pooh Preschool in its first year, brought back both of her children and quickly became one of the best parent helpers. Schneider hired as Biastoch’s assistant in 2006.
The Early Learning Center is running strong today, with Christine Nehls as director and Michele Thiessen as assistant.
The ELC is accepting new students. For information, call 723-9182 or stop by Gloria Dei Church at 2300 Florence Ave.