MATTHEWS – David Darmstaedter noticed a lack of community and social-emotional learning at The Goddard School in Matthews when he and his wife, Valerie, became co-owners in June. Now, in their first year of ownership, they aim to change that.
The Darmstaeders sought to get involved with schools and education four years ago when their first son was born at 25 weeks and only survived for 24 hours. She had been an elementary school teacher for 14 years, while he worked in finance operations at Bank of America. But when they experienced tragedy, they knew what their next step would be.
[Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly works hard to bring you local news.
Please consider making a small financial donation to help us add value to our community.]
“We wanted to do something for him,” Darmstaeder said. “Since we wanted to be in a school environment, we thought, ‘what better opportunity than to open up a preschool?’ And now we’re here, four years later.”
Though the Matthews location of The Goddard School has operated for 20 years, the Darmstaeders, along with educational director Emily Peters, are giving the preschool a makeover, both physically and educationally.
The school will get repainted, security has been increased, turf will be added to the playground and curriculums have changed.
“The school was in an OK spot,” Darmstaeder said. “I think we just have a higher expectation and not only want to challenge our teachers but our children, too. We were looking for different approaches to learning that would give us more of a challenge.”
The preschool has shifted to a project-based learning approach, according to Peters. Other Goddard campuses have similar approaches.
She said this approach allows children to lead, develop critical thinking skills, collaborate with others and learn to communicate effectively.
“It’s more meaningful for the children because they have a say in what they’re doing and they can guide the instruction and guide what they’re doing throughout the day,” Peters said. “It gives more meaning to the education and really helps the children grasp the concepts more.”
As a parent of two children at The Goddard School, Darmstaeder understands parents’ desire for a quality preschool experience. He believes a project-based curriculum will allow the school to provide that for children so they are ready to move on to kindergarten and beyond, both academically and in their interpersonal relationships.
Additionally, the Darmstaeders and Peters have set out to create more of a community among parents, teachers and students.
“Our goal is to be more involved in the community, have more parents be involved with the school and create more of a community feel because I feel like that’s been lacking in the past,” Darmstaeder said. “I feel like this Goddard should be the pillar of the community in Matthews.
Peters said teachers are given tablets to take photos and videos of their students’ activities throughout the day and send them to parents, fostering a deeper conversation between parents and children beyond how their day was.
She has also organized opportunities for parents to become more involved in their children’s preschool experience, including the “Week of the Young Child” and “Root for Earth Week” in which guests will speak to students about a variety of themed topics every day. Children and their parents will get to participate in exciting, fun activities.
To get more involved with the community, Darmstaeder and Peters said the preschool is holding a summer STEAM event in June that is open to the public. It will serve as a preview for the mini-camp sessions the preschool holds throughout the summer.
When children leave The Goddard School, Darmstaeder and Peter hope they walk out as good citizens, understand their role in the community and are prepared to take on life.
“The social and emotional skills are most important to me,” Darmstaeder said. “Academics, of course, it’s our goal for children to leave prepared for kindergarten. But I really want to see that children, after they leave here, have those social-emotional skills to prepare them, not just for next steps, but for life in general.”
On the web: www.goddardschool.com
Become a CMG Insider! Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to stay on top of everything we are publishing in print and online, as well as what we’re sharing across our social media platforms. Click here to be added to the distribution list.