By D.J. MORROW INGRAM
FOCUSING ON CHILDREN: A key element of the success of Miss Helen’s Private School is the consistency in staff and teachers whose number one priority is the development of the school’s students. Shown here is longtime school director Patti Holder, right, executive director Lynda Wingo, center, and Wingo’s daughter, Jayme Wingo Martin, a teacher at the school.
D.J. MORROW INGRAM for GTR Newspapers
The importance of early childhood education was understood by the founder of Miss Helen’s Private School long before it became the buzzword it is today. Fifty-two years ago Helen Wingo opened a school at 13th Street and Harvard Avenue to provide a structured preschool to young children. She wanted to create a great learning institution where small children could develop communication, mathematical and social skills, as well as good learning habits.
The result was Miss Helen’s Nursery and Dance School.
Today her legacy lives on in the school’s facility at 48th Street and Mingo Road.
“So much in our world has changed since Miss Helen created the school,” says school executive director Lynda Wingo, Miss Helen’s daughter-in-law. “But even though we have expanded our facility and programs, our primary concern is still our children’s individual self-development through education.”
Wingo, who started at the school as a teacher in 1973, instituted the use of the Gesell school readiness testing method for all students entering Miss Helen’s. The test, along with teacher observations, allows the school to design the appropriate curriculum for each child.
“If we have a student who is a first grader by age but who is reading at the third grade level, we want that student offered third and then fourth grade reading material,” she says. “Providing academic challenges helps students achieve their full potential.”
Miss Helen’s offers programs in three areas: preschool, kindergarten and elementary grades one to five.
The preschool uses a unique “pod” classroom concept, which allows students to rotate between teachers and classrooms as they study Spanish, art, music, stories-science (emphasizing reading and math skills), music-Spanish (songs, record activities, movement and coordination) and art and dance.
The Kindergarten class offers reading and math programs consistent with the surrounding school districts. “Center time” provides students with additional hands-on activities which challenge them in a rewarding and positive manner. These centers have art, blocks, pretend and computer time with programs that enhance the reading and math curriculum.
“By keeping the class uniquely individualized, each student is challenged at his or her own pace,” says Wingo. “This helps develop a positive self-image and the social skills they will need as they progress through school.”
A comprehensive curriculum is provided for grades 1-5 in a multi-age grouping. The classroom environment is open and flexible to meet individual needs and the method of instruction is tailored to fit the learning styles and personality of each student.
Students at Miss Helen’s also have music instruction, physical education, computer lab and Spanish lessons. The students participate in ongoing social awareness programs including nursing home pen pals and several community service projects throughout the year.
“Parents are an integral part of our success,” says Wingo. “We have a strong PTO and because the school is small we get to know each other well. We become part of one big family.”
Wingo credits the staff with Miss Helen’s success, many of whom are longtime employees of the school. Patti Holder, the school’s director, has been with Miss Helen’s over 25 years.
For more information on Miss Helen’s, call the school at (918) 622-2327 or visit the school online at www.misshelens.com.