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Getting to know your neighbor: Salem Lutheran Preschool reaches the children in the community

E-I-E-I-O — Children at Salem Lutheran Preschool gather around a staff member, for story time. They are pictured interacting, through a version of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Photos by Jessie Owen.
SPRINGVILLE — Children sitting at a low table use crayons, scissors and glue to create the day’s project, a pop-up animal. “What holiday is coming up?” a staff member asks, receiving varied answers. “Valentine’s Day!” “Christmas!” and the one she was looking for, “Groundhog Day!”

Being surrounded by children, ready to learn and eager to play, is a way of life, for the staff members at Salem Lutheran Preschool and Child Care Center.

WELCOME ALL — Salem Lutheran Church and Preschool is located at 91 West Main St. in Springville.
The preschool, an outreach of Salem Lutheran Church, opened in Springville in September of 2000. Director Amy Tillinghast, who has worked with the program almost as long as it has existed in the village, said that the school’s goal is to offer affordable childcare to the local community.

The Salem Lutheran Preschool is a not-for-profit facility that provides before- and after-school care and nursery school for children 6 months – 12 years, on Mondays – Fridays, from 6:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

School-aged children enrolled in the Springville School District, including St. Aloysius, may be picked up from the preschool in the morning and dropped off in the afternoon, by bus.

OH, BABY! — Youngsters in the infant room have plenty of toys to play with, as they interact with each other and staff members.
The program’s nursery school, which runs all day long, currently welcomes children from as far away as Holland, Collins, Otto and Boston. Parents can register their kids for full or half days, or by the hour. Toddler groups, for ages 18 months – 3 years, are held from 9 a.m. – noon. “This is great for stay-at-home moms who want their kids to socialize,” Tillinghast said. Parents may enroll children in this program, for as many days as they choose.

The Salem Lutheran Preschool features one infant room, one toddler room, one 3-year-old room, one 4-year-old room and one school-aged room. Tillinghast said that staff members are assigned to spaces, based on ratios; there are normally two teachers in each room. Head teachers hold child development associate licenses.

The preschool loosely follows Creative Curriculum, which emphasizes learning through play. “We make it fun,” Tillinghast said. “We are not a product-based program. The children learn a lot of self-help skills, so they are prepared to go to school. They learn to function as a group.”

The preschool’s proximity to many Springville attractions provides outdoor playtime, when the weather allows. The children can take bikes and other riding toys to the village tennis courts, located behind the school. During the summer, they take advantage of the neighboring playground and spray park.

DID HE SEE HIS SHADOW? — These kids, enrolled at Salem Lutheran Preschool, created pop-up groundhogs, in honor of Groundhog Day.
School-aged children, who may attend the preschool for full days, during the summer, visit the Springville Youth Inc. pool, take in matinees at the Joylan Theatre or go bowling. “We have a great location, here, because we can walk everywhere,” Tillinghast said.

Children partake of breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks that are created by an on-staff cook.

Parents receive daily reports that show what activities their children did, throughout the day.

“We are a Christian-based center,” Tillinghast said. “The church supports the preschool, financially. The idea behind our opening was to be a mission to the community.”

The children meet with Salem Lutheran Church Pastor Fred Poeppel for chapel time, once weekly. Per the preschool’s stated purpose, “programs are Christ-centered, with developmentally-appropriate curriculum that meets the needs of the whole child, in the areas of spiritual, social, emotional and physical development.”

The preschool is currently accepting children for its programs, through its rolling enrollment. Tillinghast said that financial assistance is available, through Erie and Cattaraugus County.

The preschool is licensed by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and is subject to regular, unannounced inspections. All of its 12 staff members undergo 30 hours of training, every two years.

“We have an extremely low staff turnover and I feel very lucky about that,” Tillinghast said, adding that her employees are very committed to the program. Two of the staff members have worked at the preschool, since it first opened. “It’s nice to have familiar faces here, for the kids,” Tillinghast said, “and it’s nice for parents to come and see the same people, every day.”

For more information, or to obtain an enrollment packet, call 592-9067. The church and preschool can be found online at


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