Friday June 14, 2013
BENNINGTON — Darlene Bombard and Alyson Grzyb are co-directors of the Bennington Early Childhood Center, a pre-school program formerly affiliated with Bennington College. In 2009, Bombard and Grzyb opened BECC’s doors at its present location, Green Mountain Christian Center, and began a successful journey independent of Bennington College.
At its new location at Green Mountain Christian Center, BECC started with a total enrollment of 33 children in two classrooms, with the support of five staff members. The center has grown in the past four years, enrolling a total of 57 children this past spring, aged 2-6 years, and employing 10 full-time staff members, as well as several interns from local colleges.
“We’ve grown faster than we had anticipated,” said Grzyb, explaining how BECC now leases the entire bottom floor of Green Mountain Christian Center to accommodate their crowd, as opposed to the original two rooms.
Both Bombard and Grzyb want the community to know that BECC is still in existence, as they more often than not field questions regarding their break from Bennington College and whether or not the 2009 move culminated in BECC closing its doors.
“We want people to know that we are still the same entity,” said Grzyb, “and we’ve stayed true to our roots.”
BECC’s mission is simple: to provide each child with a challenging yet appropriate program so that every child is able to develop as an individual and as a group. The program focuses on exploration, the emotional security of each child and the importance of positive interaction among other children.
BECC is unique in that the curricula are based on the emerging interests and needs of the children who attend the program. This emergent learning curriculum emphasizes learning with the whole body and encourages children to use all five of their senses to explore the world around them.
Bombard explained that the key to this method of teaching is to listen carefully to the questions children are asking and the games they’re playing.
“I believe it’s a very well-rounded program,” said Bombard. “And as a teacher, I find it more exciting for me, as well as the kids.”
This year, BECC participated in pre-K partnership with local public elementary schools in Bennington, North Bennington, Shaftsbury, Manchester, Sunderland, and Sandgate, and were awarded a five-star rating by the State of Vermont upon completion.
Even though she has been teaching for 25 years, Bombard says she continues to be amazed by her students.
“It’s wonderful to see them grow and change over the course of the year,” she says. Laughing, she continues, “Sometimes I forget they’re only 2 and 3 years old. They act so grown-up!”
A teacher for 15 years, Grzyb is equally as enthusiastic about the children and their learning journeys at BECC.
“I love that the kids are so excited to come to school and so excited about what they’re learning,” she said. “It’s extremely validating and rewarding when you know you’ve made an impact on their lives.”
Both Bombard and Grzyb attribute much of BECC’s success to the parents of the children who attend the program.
“We have a fantastic parent community,” said Grzyb. “They do so much for us.”
She explained that parents of the children were more than generous with their time and with their donations, both in 2009 during the move, and today.
“It’s a very close-knit community,” said Bombard, “and very supportive.”
At least for the foreseeable future, Bombard and Grzyb agree they will most likely remain at an enrollment size of about 60, simply because, they say, “we just don’t have the space for another classroom!”
Wednesday marked the last day of school for the children of BECC.
However, the summer camp program will begin July 8 and run through Aug. 16, and will be held at their present location.
According to Grzyb, the summer camp program differs from the school year’s curriculum with a different theme each week for children ages 2-8 years old and activities ranging from cooking to music to sports and art.
“It’s a little different,” she said,” but in a good way.”
The program will run Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with an option of extended care from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.
To learn more about BECC or to enroll your child in the summer camp program, visit benningtonecc.org or call BECC directly at 802-447-1093.
Contact Elizabeth Conkey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @bethconkey.