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Ingram opens Country Learning Center in rural Tuscola

By Kendra Hennis 
Country Learning Center is a children’s preschool led and owned by Elizabeth Ingram, a TCHS alumni. Ingram has a bachelors in speech pathology, a PreK-12 teaching certificate, a master in special education, as well as ten years of teaching experience in a variety of settings. She previously worked full time as an elementary special education teacher, then moved to part time education to stay home to grow her family. During her five years of being home with her three young children is when she really fell in love with toddler and preschool ages. She enjoys all things language development and life and social skills. As a licensed Pre-K teacher, with an additional degree in speech pathology and masters in special education, she is very equipped to teach multiple skills to teach three and four-year olds. Ingram says that she “sees each of her students as an individual and strives to teach them in the way they learn best.”

Ingram said that she decided to open Country Learning Center because she “has always loved the  younger children ever since student teaching. I stayed at home part time while working part time the past six years, in those long but short days with my three kids under the age of five is when I fell in love with the toddler and preschool age! I love cognitive thinking, and assisting with language development, and social skills in young children. I started putting the bug in my husband’s ear of opening my own preschool, but we didn’t have big enough property at the time. A couple years later we moved across the corn field to have more space and the shed to preschool remodel began!”

Ingram said that her biggest inspiration in opening the preschool is the hope for her students to love school! She explained that, “Preschool is their first experience in a school setting. I hope they learn how to make a friend, learn friends’ names, and interact appropriately in a variety of settings. We are a technology free school. I hope to provide a hands-on, country experience. We sing several songs, read books daily, ask a lot of questions, and wave to tractors and horses and buggies that drive by, all while learning so many things!”

CLC is part of the Illinois Farm To School community. They follow a Harvest of the Month program and target a couple different garden grown food items by learning about them, preparing them for our daily snack, as well as discussing the nutritional value and meals to make at home as a family. Ingram explained that “Farm to School is a national community; I’ve become a part of the Illinois group. They strive to build awareness of farms, learn about the importance of where food comes from, and do hands-on activities with garden foods. We will target a garden item every month. The children will be involved with our school garden and in a couple years our apple and pear trees should be blooming. We will learn how to clean the foods for snacks as well as send home recipes to make with their families. We hope to take field trips to different types of farms near us. We also have school chickens and cows. We will get new calves every summer so the students will get to name their cow for the year every August. The students will be involved in the daily care for the animals.”

Ingram noted that at the school, they will “start our day outside in the play yard while we wait for all our friends to arrive. Then we will collect chicken eggs and feed and water the cows. The feeding and watering is adapted to a preschool sized child so they can do it independently. We will also check on the garden. Next is inside for our morning meeting and weekly concepts. My favorite part is small group, this is where I work with five students while the other five visit our different centers around the room, then we switch. Depending on the weather, we may go back outside for the student’s favorite time, snack. Followed by storytime and the weekly topic activity. On Fridays, the four-year-old class will have ‘Faith Learning Time’ with a guest teacher. We will end our day outside for free play.”

Ingram is joined by Faith Learning Time Leader Gwenna Pelz. Pelz currently serves as the Family Director at Stone Creek Church in Urbana. Before that, she enjoyed teaching preschool for nine years and also taught at the elementary level for four years. She has three children of her own and says that, “she believes that children truly are a gift and her favorite people to spend time with and looks forward to their weekly Faith Learning Time together.”

Ingram says that she is currently still enrolling new students for the fall. She said that, “I have a morning four-year-olds class and an afternoon four-year-olds class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I have a morning three-year-olds class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The three-year-olds must be three before Sept 1 and the four year olds must be four before Sept 1. All must be fully potty trained. Their own transportation must be provided for drop off and pick up. I do have several carpool parents. Everyone is welcome to visit our website and there is a green ‘enroll now’ button at the top. They complete the online form and pay the enrollment fee, then I will contact them via email if I still have a spot in the class.”

Country Learning Center is located at 700 E CR 700 N in Tuscola and can be contacted by emailing CLC follows the public school calendars and will be a licensed facility and equipped with building locks and camera for secured safety. Mrs. Ingram will be holding a preschool open house at the Country Learning Center Preschool (700 E CR 750 N) on Saturday, July 10 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

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