By Phyl Newbeck
For over three decades, Annette’s Preschool in Hinesburg has entertained and educated local (and not-so-local) youngsters. Two years ago, Andrea Sambrook bought the childcare facility and a year ago she became the director.
Annette’s Preschool has two buildings which service children from two different age groups. The youngest (starting at six weeks) are in the full-day program while the older children (up to 12 years of age) come after school. The facility sees over 100 children on an average day. In the summer, the afterschool program becomes a 10-week full-day summer camp. Sambrook said the preschool has a staff of 14 with two co-teachers for each classroom, a number of full-time substitute teachers, and two administrative directors. The facility received five stars (the top rating) from the Step Ahead Recognition System overseen by the Vermont Department of Children and Families.
Sambrook said one of the most popular components of the summer camp is the in-ground pool with daily swimming lessons. Children as young as six have passed their deep water test after a summer of lessons. The kids are also taken on bus trips and shorter outings, like Lake Monsters games. Last summer the older children repaired a picnic table used by the toddlers which was particularly poignant since the table had been a gift from a previous pre-school graduating class.
Summer camp includes a Buddy Up program where older children partner with young ones. This summer the older kids put together a marble maze with paper towel and toilet paper rolls and presented it to the younger ones who offered their advice on how to make it work. Evening programs can include karaoke, games, and indoor star gazing. Local families whose children are not enrolled are also invited to attend to make it a community gathering.
Children attending the programs at Annette’s come from as far as Monkton, Bristol, Lincoln, Essex, and South Burlington. The after-school program is so popular that there is a waiting list, though the preschool level still has a few openings.
Sambrook used to teach child development at the Community College of Vermont and for years she was the Director of Research and Education at the Gesell Institute affiliated with Yale University. These days, as director, she makes sure she is still able to spend time with the kids. “I love being in the classroom so I do make time for it,” she said. “I’m in the classroom every day whether it’s just to watch or to work collaboratively. For me personally, the joy is to be able to watch each child discover the world in both predictable ways and in their unique learning profiles.”
Sambrook sometimes worries that today’s parents have expectations for their children that are both too high and too rigid. “I try to tell them that each child goes through a certain sequence and children have not changed in their ability to reach certain developmental milestones. You can’t rush child development.”
By Phyl Newbeck