By MARIA JONES
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AND COUNTING: Patti “Miss Patti??? Holder has been teaching the students at Miss Helen’s for twenty-five years. Shown here, from left, Abby Rowe, Alex Sensintaffar, Miss Patti and Ryan Wilson.
MATTHEW W. GROSS for GTR newspapers
Patti “Miss Patti” Holder came to Miss Helen’s Private School as a parent 25 years ago, and she’s still there, but now as the school’s director.
“I enrolled my daughter, and about three or four months later I asked ‘Miss Lynda’ Wingo, the school’s executive director and owner if she needed any volunteers,” says Holder. “She said yes and here I am. My daughter grew up here with Miss Lynda’s daughter, and now we have grandchildren attending the school.”
Holder and Miss Lynda formed a special relationship that has lasted over the years.
According to Holder, Miss Helen’s is like a second home to her and that her husband and daughter are very supportive. “They respect my love for children and my desire to help young families with their children’s education. We also have a very supportive faculty and staff.”
She says parents, children and staff are all a big family to her. “We are all a big part of the lives of each other.”
Holder says she works more now with parents than with the children, and is passionate about personal attention for families, especially new families interested in enrolling their child in the school.
When asked what her main duties are, she says “I enroll new families, and work with current families and staff. I tell parents to ask questions, if they don’t have questions, I don’t have a job. I want to make sure that everyone coming in new knows everything. I like to show families, not groups. It’s a big thing with me to give personal attention. We cater to the parents, because they know the true value of education, and make sacrifices for their children’s schooling. We have parents who are professionals, grandparents, single parents and even teachers who entrust us with their children’s education, and that’s an honor. The parents as well as the children are very special to us, and when they have concerns, I get involved.”
Holder also assists Miss Lynda in hiring teachers.and orger managerial aspects.
Miss Helen’s takes children from three years to fifth grade, and enrollment is between 185 and 200. Classes are small so children have more individualized attention.
“When one of the children leaves, we’re sad. It’s like when a member of a family moves away, we miss them. Most of the children go on to other private schools in the sixth grade. Parents want their children to continue having this kind of attention.”
According to Holder, some of their teachers are former students.
“It’s a blessing when our students grow up, go to college and come back to us wanting to teach here,” Holder says. “Also, many former students have children enrolled here now. I thank ‘Miss Helen’ (Helen Wingo, the founder of the school) for her vision 50 years ago and ‘Miss Lynda’ for continuing this incredible vision.”
Things have changed over the last 25 years, according to Holder.
“Even three-year-olds are more aware, more verbal and understand much more about what is going on around them,” says Holder. “Their environment is very different from when their parents were their age.”
The school has also made changes to keep up and give the students the best and safest educational environment, according to Holder. Computers have been installed for the children to use, Spanish has been added to the curriculum, the teachers are degreed and the children, faculty and staff now wear uniforms.
Children coming in to the three- and four-year-old preschool program are taught art, dance, music, and stories and science, which emphasizes reading and math skills and Spanish.
“We work on the whole child to provide the best for the child socially, behaviorally, academically and physically,” Holder says. “The pre-school dance classes include creative movements and in K-fifth grade students have physical education and health classes. The K-fifth graders participate in the annual Tulsa Run and recently had a jump-a-thon to support heart health.”
According to Holder, parents want to add more grades, but Miss Helen’s is currently using all the space available. The school, which opened in 1954 in mid-town, had two campuses at one point, but later combined in a single campus at the present location at 4849 Mingo Rd.
“This is a family school, family owned and family focused,” says Wingo. “We go to birthday parties, graduations and weddings. We become a part of the families that entrust their children to us.”
Miss Lynda has been with Miss Helen’s since 1973. Her daughter, Jayme Wingo Martin, currently teaches kindergarten.
Parents wanting personal attention and a caring, well-balanced education for their child or children can contact Miss Patti at Miss Helen’s Private School, 918-622-2327, or visit the web site at www.misshelens.com for more information about the school.