First United Methodist nursery school will celebrate 75th Anniversary at Sunday service

Published 10:55 am Thursday, August 10, 2023

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Editorial Director
The First United Methodist Nursery School, Elizabethton, will celebrate its 75th anniversary at the Sunday morning service, August 13, with the dedication of its new playground. All former students are invited to the morning service at 10 a.m., after which there will be a reception in the church fellowship hall.
The nursery school when opened was a kindergarten and served five-year-olds and under. With the addition of kindergarten classes to the Elizabethton City School System, the church-operated school diverted to a nursery school.
Cecile Bennett was the first director of the church school, which was a dream of the late Mildred Nelson, who visualized a week-day program for pre-school children in the church’s new educational building.
At the time, Mrs. Bennett, who, too, is deceased, was a third grade teacher at Keenburg School. The kindergarten was the first to be operated in Elizabethton and early leaders of the school believe the church kindergarten was instrumental in helping to get kindergarten established as a part of the Elizabethton School System.
In the beginning there were two sessions. One group came from 9 a.m. to 12 noon and the second group came from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Many of Elizabethton’s prominent men and women are alumni of the kindergarten at First United Methodist. Among that first class are Sonya Anderson, Judy Bare, Smithie Bennett, Susan Bennett, Lu Sharon Bowles, Jimmy Chambers, Nancy Cole, Mikki Davis, Joanna Doob, Jacob Edwards, Sandra Kay Eller, Elizabeth Ann Finney, Jo Ann Hathaway, Sonja Hill, Bobby Hess, William Berry St. John, Helen Lou Lacey, Terry McCutcheon, Jay Martin, George Maxwell, Rebecca Moore, Patty Munsey, Nancy Lee Nelson, Joyce Pinckard, Mike Query, Joe Rader, Jimmy Ritts, Alice Rogers, Glenn Robinson, John Shelley, Diane Shell, Jane Stanton, Betty Thompson, Jan Thompson, and Jon Loren Woods, all of whom were members of the five-year-old group.
Members of the four-year-old group were Joyce Allen, Douglas Crumbly, Patty Daly, Teddy DuCharm, Sharon Sue Eason, Brenda Sue Franklin, Louise Jessee, Richard Powers, David Shelley, Steve Sorrell, Sandra Lynn Stewart, Mickey Taylor, and Tommy Thompson.
The kindergarten in the beginning served children, three to five years of age. According to an early STAR article, teachers at the First Methodist Kindergarten took their tasks seriously, believing that the responsibility of starting a child in the right direction was and still is the most important aspect of the school.
Among early members of the church’s school committee were E.B. Dyer, Jean Crockett, Joe LaPorte, Katherine Armstrong, and Betty Lincoln.
Endeavors were made to teach the children through daily, happy experiences, self-reliance, fair play, sharing, courtesy, kindness, consideration, obedience, and cooperation. Activities included coloring, pasting, cutting, finger painting, story time, puzzles, singing, rhythm band, free play, workbooks, and other activities.
Helping Bennett with the teaching duties in the beginning were Mrs. Luther Hodge and Mrs. John Laws along with Mrs. H.L. Luther, who served as a substitute teacher. Also instrumental in the kindergarten’s opening was Mrs. Mildred Nelson, Mrs. Fred Moore Lewis, Mrs. James Perry, and the Rev. E.H. Ogle.
The kindergarten opened Sept. 7, 1948, for its first classes. The motto of the school was “We Deal In Children.”
Meals were cooked and served to the children by Mrs. Marie Moore.
Mrs. Bennett maintained the position of director of the kindergarten until her retirement in 1977, for a total of 29 years. She continued to do substitute teaching in the pre-school and was honored by the church on May 8, 1983 for 40 years of service to the kindergarten program.
Following Mrs. Bennett’s retirement, Mrs. Julia Galle took over as director of the school, followed by Mrs. Margaret McGee, Mrs. Harry McDaniel, Mrs. Nancy Williamson, and Nancy Barrigar.
The present director is Jessica Salley, and the school averages 15 to 20 students each fall, most of whom are nursery school age.
During the course of the school’s 75 years, it has had to deal with polio – in its first year – and only recently with COVID.
The church deems its school a safe place for kids.

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