Marisa Schmidt has been cleaning, painting and decorating in preparation for the opening of her Wonder Years Learning Academy.
The academy is a preschool to be held in the lower level of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Dickinson. It will open on the first day of the public schools -- Aug. 24.
She’s accepted help from volunteers with the Badlands Ministries who did painting and cleaning for two days as part of their community service.
“I think there’s a need for a preschool,” said Schmidt who is the owner/director. “It’s always been a dream of mine, and then (Deacon) Anna Dykeman mentioned the previous preschool at the church was closing.”
She has worked with children for as long as she can remember. Her resume includes working as a therapist for children with autism, a staff person at a residential treatment home, a youth development coordinator with an after-school program and a preschool teacher for a private school.
Schmidt earned a master’s degree in early childhood education from Concordia University, St. Paul in 2012, and then worked for Head Start/Early Head Start in Dickinson for four years as a home visitor, education coordinator and classroom teacher. She has trained adults to become caregivers in Montana and is facilitating training online. Schmidt and her husband, Shane, moved to Dickinson in 2012, and returned back in 2014. They are serving as foster parents, and she has two stepchildren, ages 9 and 15, who are excited to help her.
The mission of her academy is “to expose children to different learning opportunities in an environment that fosters curiosity,” she said.
She describes herself as a very patient person -- an individual who understands children and one who will provide support without too much support.
The large group opportunities will include songs, rhymes, finger play, storytime and games. Small group opportunities will include number and letter recognition, sharpening fine motor skills and making scientific discoveries.
She appreciates using the church’s lower level.
“It’s a great way to utilize a space that’s underutilized, and I believe we are providing a service that’s a necessity to the community.”
The academy will be open to children who celebrated their third birthday by March 1 until they reach the kindergarten.
“I think a lot of preschool is the social aspect -- a child really isn’t ready to learn until they feel safe and they’re valued,” she said. “They have to feel prepared for relationships with other adults and other children, they need to learn conflict resolution -- really we’re preparing them to learn their ABC’s, to learn how to sit and to listen.”
As she wrote online, she said, “My head is spinning with incredible ideas I cannot wait to share with your child.”
The children visit the academy for three hours, either 8:15 to 11:15 a.m. or noon to 3 p.m. There are openings in both the morning and afternoon programs. For more information call 406-670-0112 or visit Facebook at wonderyearslearning academy or www.wonderyearslearning academy.com.