Karin Willis is in an enviable position.
The preschool teacher at the River John SCORE Preschool program absolutely, categorically loves her job.
“I can go on for hours!” laughed Willis as she talked about the school and the kids. “I love it. Kids today have so much more stress on them; if they have a good start from preschool, hopefully it helps.”
But it was going to take more than a love of teaching kids for Willis to keep her beloved preschool in its regular home in the now defunct former River John Consolidated School.
“When the school closed, even though I didn’t have my own children in the school I felt like the (Chignecto-Central Regional School Board) ripped away my heart,” said Willis. “I packed up my preschool and took everything home. My house was full of toys. I spent the summer trying my best to find a spot to re-open.”
But Willis didn’t give up and contacted the local government.
“I never thought that come the end of August I would be back in the building and River John!” Willis smiles exuberantly. “I was at the Truro exhibition when I got the call that Ronnie Baillie and the county council would have the keys ready in a couple days. They are amazing.” Baillie is warden of the Municipality of the County of Pictou, in whose area the school is located.
And Willis isn’t going to look this gift horse in the mouth.
“The preschool will be there always. I have decided I am not moving my stuff again and I will not move so they will have to tear the keys from my hand before I will leave again,” claims a steadfast Willis.
“I am working with the River John Action Society to try to support the building as much as I can.”
The future of the school and the building is still up in the air, as far as Willis and the residents of River John are concerned, but the province says otherwise, with, at present, no plans to reinstate the building back to the consolidated school it was.
For now, the River John SCORE Preschool Program is available Tuesdays and Wednesdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. There is also an afterschool program that runs Tuesday to Friday, 3 to 6 p.m. The program itself is fully licensed and Willis is an ECE educator who believes that children learn best through play.
“And boy do we play. We have access to the gym and equipment anytime, and we also have the huge outdoor area around the school to learn about absolutely everything.”
And learn they do. From geography to how to care for Sushi, the class hedgehog, Willis peppers the day with information, fun and lots of hugs.
Add to that healthy snacks and a constantly emergent and flexible program, and it’s obvious that Willis is making the most out of her time with the kids.
And she has big plans looking ahead as well.
“My future aim is to turn the all-inclusive preschool into a full day centre for ages two to 12, as well as somehow integrating the seniors into the program. I’d like an outdoor play space and anything else I can think of,” laughs Willis again.
“And my really big dream, although I’m not sure how I’d do it yet, is to create a multi-sensory room for children and adults with diverse needs, on the North Shore and beyond.”
She is also working to create a resource room for parents and organize some workshops for parents and caregivers.
And the preschool can always use your donations, be it time, resources or funds.
“We appreciate any donations, which can be dropped off anytime during the week or mailed to the preschool.” Willis will also pick up anything you want to donate. Want your child to be part of the River John SCORE Preschool program? There is still some room for kids to join.
You can head on over to the River John SCORE Preschool program, email Karin Willis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give her a call at 902-305-3554.