Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By JoAnn Alexander
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Fondly remembering Hope Nursery School

A grateful teacher's 45 years of heartfelt memories


Having had the opportunity and privilege to be the assistant teacher at Hope Nursery School for the last four years, I learned a lot about this community.

I also met people I would not have met otherwise. When the Hope Nursery School Board interviewed me I met the teacher, Moose Lake School personnel, and parents.

When Matt Heaton, (once a student at Hope) came into the room with his State Trooper uniform on I knew this was a serious Board of Directors!

People that were dedicated in providing quality early childhood education to pre-schoolers from Moose Lake and the surrounding communities started asking me questions.

Why would a retired RN want to work with 3 year olds? For a new adventure. An adventure it’s been. Thank you.

So, how has this small non-profit thrived for so long in a small community?

Because of a few people who thought early childhood education would be beneficial to their children and perhaps the future of their community.

From the very beginning Hope Nursery became a licensed pre-school with degreed teachers. This happened long before “ECFE” was a well known term.

Community organizations, business people, families, and educators felt Hope Nursery School could make it better for students starting kindergarten. They did it!

In the early years, the University of Minnesota contacted the director asking Hope to become involved in their TLC program. For years Hope was the only program outside the metropolitan area to have this distinction.

Hope was involved for a number of years. As a result of that union, Hope extended their efforts to a summer program that included 7 and 8 year olds. That continued for more than 10 years.

Tonka Toys also contacted Hope and contributed to the program. So many efforts to provide quality education on the pre-school level were made.

Thousands of children have experienced learning how to stand in line, say please and thank you, take turns, cut with scissors, learn their colors, numbers, letters, hopping on one foot, skipping and developing those social skills so critical to a child’s development, and a whole lot more.

Without the incredible support and commitment of the entire community, it would not have been possible for a successful non-profit nursery school to survive all these years.

In recent years there was more collaboration with Moose Lake Schools to have children with special needs included in Hope’s program.

Teachers from the school would participate in class time at Hope so several children with special needs could be exposed to our curriculum. Thank you.

From the very beginning, Jan Benrud has had a undying commitment to Hope Nursery. She taught for 25 years and has continued to be on the Board all these years.

Jan Deering worked as the teaching assistant for 20 of the 45 years. I had big shoes to fill taking her place when she retired.

Priscilla Heimbruch has been the Director and teacher for the last three years. She has taught with joy and compassion.

She has been a licensed teacher in this area for many years. She brought a lot of energy and commitment to the program.

In between, there were other teachers and parents committed to the many fundraisers like the Spaghetti Suppers, Holiday Fair, bowling day, trips to the zoo, train rides, visiting a sheep farm and animal shelter.

Having fire trucks, policemen and other community visitors, pet visits, fire drills, Mother’s Day Teas and a whole lot of fun just go on and on to give new experiences to 3, 4 and 5 year olds. Thank you.

You don’t have to go far to meet someone who has gone to Hope Nursery School. I met someone who told me that during the years there were more than 50 students enrolled, she missed registering her son because she had a flat tire on the way into town and the classes were full.

Another woman was a student and she told me she still remembers singing “Billy Goats Gruff”.

We had many parents who were bringing their children to Hope Nursery School because they had been students when they were children.

The first year I was working at Hope Nursery, Emily Saude was the teacher. We had this song we sang and the children would be dancing. At one point the song would say, “Freeze” and the children would stop in their tracks.

Later, while in the gym, as 20 three years olds can do, the activity was getting out of hand, so Emily said, “FREEZE!” and the children all stopped.

One little girl said, “I’m melting, I’m melting! Like a popsicle!”

Then there was the day when one of the boys said his favorite color was pink! (Our little secret.) Another is the day a child recognized their name for the first time. Yeah!

There are so many people to thank. The people who created the first board to get the school off the ground; the volunteers who built shelves, donated books, toys and supplies, helped at fundraisers, donated money, bought and sold raffle tickets. We can’t list all of you for fear of leaving anyone out. Thank you.

The board has met several times to discuss the closing of the school due to lack of enrollment for the 2013-14 school year.

We aren’t closing because we failed. We’re closing because there are now other options for early childhood education in the area.

It was a difficult decision to make but without students, perhaps the need had run its course.

Forty-five school years later, we can close our doors knowing children will still have the opportunity to receive the early childhood education and exposure to social development elsewhere.

What happens now? Since Hope Lutheran Church has provided space and support all these years, the school equipment has been donated to the church.

The money in the bank will be given to “Dollars for Scholars” to create a scholarship Fund for Hope Nursery Graduates who apply and write a required essay.

Though the doors are closing on the last chapter of the Hope Nursery School story, its memory will live on. Scholarships will continue to provide children in this community with HOPE.

Thank you.


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