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Calvary Lutheran School celebrates 25 years of teaching pre-schoolers

Tracy Bunch doesn't remember too much about her year as a student at Calvary Lutheran Pre-School, although she does remember the names of a few of her classmates. "My teacher's daughter, Angie, was in my class," she recalls.

"I also remember wearing dresses all the time and having my hair done up in ponytails," she said. "I was happy there," she added.

Bunch was among the first 40 children to attend Calvary Lutheran Pre-school when it opened in January 1979, and is now looking forward to observing the school's 25th anniversary of its founding.

Now grown and a mother of two, Tracy and her husband, Kyle, believe their children will also be happy attending the private school.

The Calvary Lutheran school, located at the corner of Harrison Avenue and South 11th Street in Sunnyside, will mark its 25th anniversary during Calvary Lutheran School Week, March 7-12. The week-long celebration will include the children singing for their families and the church congregation during Sunday services, said Sharon Kilian, the school director.

Married in the Calvary Lutheran Church, the Bunches feel sending their son to the Lutheran-sponsored school will help build his confidence.

"It (the school) has such a warm and caring environment," Bunch said, adding her son, who is a bit shy, is warming to the loving care of his teachers.

"He is starting to break out of his shell," she said.

Under the auspices of the Missouri Synod, the pre-school started with two classes of 3- and 4-year-olds, with just one teacher. Since its opening, the school, which now includes a kindergarten class, has seen 2,200 children past through its doors, Kilian said.

According to current enrollment figures, 80 children attend pre-school classes and 10 children attend the fully-accredited kindergarten class, she added.

Kilian, who has been involved with the school since its inception, now sees her grandchildren attending pre-school classes.

"I also see the children of my former students, like Tracy," said Kilian, who served as a teacher's aide during the early years of the school.

According to school history, a pre-school for the Lutheran families was the dream of a long- time Sunnysider Henry Miller, who promoted the pre-school concept for more than 40 years. His dream became reality in 1979, under the direction of former Sunnysider Linda Puttler and Karolyn Rippy, the school's first certified teacher.

Rippy, who retired a few years ago, helped direct classroom activities for 3 and 4-years-olds, and the kindergarten classes for most of the school's history, said Kilian.

Today, Jeri Paulakis and Becky Gant serve as teachers for the school's 90 young students, leading them on adventures in academic, social and spiritual development. They are assisted by Lucy Rice and Jennifer Ward.

During the week-long celebration of Lutheran School Week, the children will host a salmon dinner following church on Sunday, March 7. Proceeds from the dinner will be used for scholarships. Other activities during the week will include game, t-shirt and P.J. days, said Kilian.

"We have had steady enrollment growth over the years," said Kilian. "We are now making preparation for our next expansion," she added.

The school will be extending its kindergarten classes by one hour per day, Kilian explained. Kindergarten students now attend classes from 8 to 11 a.m., five-days-a-week.

Next year, classes will be held from 8 a.m. until noon, she said.

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