Gina Ortmeier, director of Small Wonders Nursery/Preschool in Miller, says she is doing what she has always considered her passion-working with kids.
“Miss Gina” began Small Wonders at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, and it will wrap up for the summer months at the end of the Miller School year.
This year she has had children three through five years, with the younger ones in nursery, and pre-school on different days. She isn’t certain, but she is toying with the idea of having all the children in a pre-school situation next year.
“The age groups learn from each other. The younger ones strive to be like the older kids, and the older kids are good at sharing what they have learned with the little ones.”
But she does insist that she will only have 10 children per class. “If I’m dealing with more than 10 at a time, I don’t have the opportunity to get to know them and know their needs as well.”
Ortmeier says she has always been involved with kids in one way or another, as far back as her babysitting days when she was growing up. “I went to school for early childhood development,” she explains. “Whether it be Girl Scouts or church, I worked with kids.”
Although she has held other jobs, she prefers spending her time with the younger set.
She worked for Hand In Hand Daycare for a period of time, and also worked with Head Start in Highmore. But Small Wonders is the first school setting she has undertaken on her own.
“When my dad passed, I took a re-evaluation of my life, and I decided I should do something for myself and go back to my main passion-working with children.”
Ortmeier says everything she does at Small Wonders is aimed at building skills…social, emotional, fine and large motor skills. It goes far beyond learning numbers, colors and letters.
“South Dakota has guidelines for pre-school curriculum. I check with Tammy Caffee (elementary principal) often. And I still confer with the supervisor back from my days with Head Start.” She also depends on a “Pocket Curriculum,” which details what children should be learning at each level of development.
“I’m also a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and a three-day conference is coming up that I’ll be attending. I believe it’s important to have as much information as you can.”
Ortmeier has a close relationship with the Miller Elementary School. “I’m a big supporter of Kinderstart. I’m so glad that was started this year. And the school will come to Small Wonders for special needs children. All of us are working for the same result…to provide the best education we can for all children.”
The Small Wonders pupils attend for three and a half hours in the morning, and have a mid-morning snack. Miss Gina says she tries to make everything a learning experience, although the children may just think it’s “just fun.”
“Everything we do here has a theme,” Ortmeier clarified. “We’ve just been working with a weather theme, making windsocks, planting seeds, and learning about the different kinds of weather. Because weather is getting nicer, our next theme will be learning about farms…planting, animals.”
The cozy Small Wonders area is colorful and child-friendly. Ortmeier points out a small web camera near the ceiling in one corner. “It’s on all the time, and parents can watch live video anytime they want. It’s parent-password protected, and I think they appreciate being able to ‘tune in’ and see what their child is doing.”
The slogan on Ortmeier’s business card says, “Children First!” That’s her motto, and it sums up how she feels about her Small Wonders clientele.
For more information, go to www.millerpreschool.com on the Internet, or check out Small Wonders Nursery/Preschool on FaceBook. Ortmeier can be reached at 204-0119.