MARSHALL - Heather Fossum has always dreamed of teaching preschool-age children. Now, that dream will soon become a reality.
Fossum has worked at St. Stephen Lutheran Church for eight-and-a-half years, as the youth and family minister. During a recent building project, there was talk about starting a new preschool.
"I'm an education major and I've had a dream of teaching in a preschool, so I brought up the idea," Fossum said. "People were talking about it and we saw the need in Marshall, especially the Christian aspect. I was looking for that for my own son, so that's sort of how it got started."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Heather Fossum sits next to a shelf full of books in the brand new St. Stephen Lutheran Preschool room Monday. The books were donated by various people and the shelf was purchased with memorial funds from her grandmother’s funeral. Beginning this fall, the new preschool, taught by Fossum, will offer a Christian education for children ages 3-5.
Fossum received her degree from Southwest Minnesota State University, and along with her husband Zach, she is raising two sons, Joey, 6, and Keegan, 2. Since the board's approval in December, the brand-new, spacious, colorful room at St. Stephen has awaited families looking for a strong Christian foundation for their preschool-age child.
"I think it's so important to get the kids to speak the language of faith at a young age," Fossum said. "There is just so much to learn about faith. You want them to be comfortable praying and to know the stories, so why not teach them strong values of faith at a young age."
Two preschool programs will be offered, starting in the fall. The 3-year-old preschool class will meet once a week, with a second, optional day as a possibility. The 4- and 5-year-old class will meet three times a week. To attend, children must be 3 or 4 by Sept. 1, be toilet trained and up- to-date on immunizations.
"Everyone is very excited to share this opportunity with the community," Fossum said. "We know there are some good preschools out there, but this is a chance to provide a solid Christian foundation."
Along with an assistant, Fossum will teach the preschool classes.
"We've started taking registrations and we have a number of kids already signed up," Fossum said. "But there is still room for more. It's a ministry of St. Stephen, but it's also for the community as well. It's open to anyone and everyone on a first-come, first-serve basis."
A lot of thought went into constructing and designing the room, which is complete with a bathroom and kitchen area in addition to having a carpeted section for romping around and a tiled area for eating and messier projects. Colorful posters are at eye-level for youngsters and tables and chairs are also size-appropriate.
"They planned out the preschool room to be spacious," Fossum said. "The state has certain requirements, too, so we had to make sure we met those. But we're lucky to have all this space."
With the help of the congregation and community members, the preschool room has been stocked with all sorts of educational materials, including big books, Legos, a pirate ship and a pretend kitchen.
"Just about everything has been donated," Fossum said. "A lot of the kitchen items and toys were donated, and some books, too. We've had families that have grown kids donate and retired teachers, too. It's really fun to see the excitement."
A grant was used to purchase some items, like the tables, chairs, rug, sensory table and easel. Fossum also added some of her own things to the collection. But there is one item that is very precious to her - a shelf.
"My grandma, Ethel Bakken, was a very faithful person," Fossum said. "So we used some of the memorial money from her funeral to buy a book shelf. It's nice that her great-grandkids will be able to use it."
Fossum is also thankful for the efforts of the preschool governing board and the committee in addition to all of the "grandma" volunteers who have offered to share their time with the children this upcoming year. Everything seems to have just fallen into place, she said.
Interested families are invited to attend the St. Stephen Lutheran Preschool open house from 5-6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19.