For the first time in school history Prairie has a fourth section of Early School.

By Callie Atanasoff | Early School, Primary School

Their backpacks are bigger than their bodies, but they’re ready.

Ready to meet new friends, ready to find their spot on the A-B-C rug, ready to get their hands on paint and books and all the things you look forward to as a three or four-year-old.

This year, our Early School crew – the Creative Captains, Wise Owls, and Shining Stars – will be joined by a fourth classroom. Enter the Brave Explorers.

The opening of this final room completes the Leipold Johnson Early Childhood Center (LJC), Prairie’s newest addition to campus. What began as a dream – a beautiful space that would be filled with color and light and creativity and music – became a reality in August of 2021, and it continues to breathe life into our school.

During the first week of school we sat down with Emily Henkel, Lead Teacher for the Brave Explorers, to talk a little bit about what this new adventure means to her personally and what she’s looking forward to in the year ahead.

A 4th section of Early School for the first time in school history, and you get to be the person leading that section. What does that mean to you?

As cliche as it sounds, it means EVERYTHING to me!

Looking back eight years ago, I was a student teacher in Susan Holum’s first grade class and ecstatic to get my teaching career started. I was offered my first teaching job elsewhere, but unfortunately things didn’t go as planned and I left that job with shattered confidence. However, shortly after I found my way back to Prairie and a community that truly invested in me.

What is your biggest goal or hope for this school year?

My biggest goal for this school year is to inspire my students’ love for learning and that they leave the day happy. If they’re happy, then I’m happy, too.

What is the best thing about Early School at Prairie?

The vast opportunities and resources.

The Early School program is carefully crafted for a young child’s desire for learning with hands-on experiences that are engaging, mindful, and purposeful. The program not only prepares our youngest learners for kindergarten, but as lifelong learners equipped for the ever evolving world.