One of the three preschool classrooms at Fairfax United Methodist Church.
Photo by Steve Hibbard.
Diana Jenkins, 59, of Fairfax City is quite a fixture at Fairfax United Methodist Church on Stratford Avenue in Fairfax. She started working as a preschool teacher there in 1994, and is now its director. And today, Jenkins calls the place her home.
“We were married in this church and our children (now ages 29 and 35) were baptized and confirmed in this church, and my youngest daughter will be married in November,” said Jenkins, who grew up in Roanoke, went to Virginia Tech and came to Fairfax City in 1980.
As director, Jenkins oversees the half-day preschool program for children ages 2 1/2 to 6. With about 70 students and a staff of 10, she said they are looking to expand next September to a full-day program. They will be conducting open houses during Labor Day week, and start the full-day program around Sept. 10, 2018. The present church building was built in Aug. 5, 1956 and has been running a preschool since 1976.
“Our program is licensed through the Commonwealth and accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Most of our staff currently has bachelor degrees. Some of them have master’s degrees in special education or curriculum education,” said Jenkins.
THE SCHOOL’S PHILOSOPHY in a nutshell is: “Children learn through play and I believe that the basis from which learning takes place begins with social-emotional development, so we are providing an atmosphere that will support children’s social emotional development,” Jenkins said. “They’re going to be given an environment that supports cognitive development. They have to have the ability to sit and follow directions so we have to start with the social/emotional development. Once we have that down, we can teach them ABC’s and 123’s and kindergarten-readiness skills.”
The preschool is organized by three sessions that are an hour-and-a-half blocks; there’s morning preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and supplemental programs, which include before care and afternoon options from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The preschool wing uses three classrooms, and there’s an additional room for programming or a lending library. They have a maximum of 20 students per classroom; the state ratio is one teacher to 10 children.
The children play outside every day, weather permitting. There is a “Mario Andretti-style” playground that measures 145 feet long by 45 feet wide with a concrete bike path lined with tires. So, it looks like a raceway where they can get on their bikes and have races. There’s also a sandbox and a canopy that provides shade.
CLASSROOMS are set up with centers where the children have free choice to play. They can choose between writing, painting, crayons, watercolors, and even a sensory table with fake snow, dirt and worms. The preschool is an outreach program of Fairfax United Methodist Church, which has an all-inclusive open doors policy. And the pastor meets with the children once a month. “We try to be respectful of other religions or cultures. We are unapologetically Christian,” she said. “The intent is to let children know at all times that God is with them,” she said.
The address is 10300 Stratford Ave., Fairfax, VA 22030. For more information, visit www.fairfaxumc.org/preschool or call 703-591-3177.