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After getting her start at Chrisman Elementary, Elizabeth Ingram has opened her own school in the country just outside of Tuscola, called ‘Country Learning Center’.
Ingram, a Tuscola native, previously was the kindergarten through fifth grade Special Education teacher, but plans changed when her family began to grow.
“That year, my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child and I transitioned to stay home part time and work part time,” Ingram said.
She began working for a special education co-op, Eastern Illinois Area of Special Education as an autism consultant helping classroom teachers for six years while raising three children. While working, Ingram had the feeling of wanting to do more.
“I’ve always loved the younger children ever since student teaching. I started putting a bug in my husband’s ear of opening my own preschool, but we didn’t have a big enough property at the time.”
A couple of years later, her dream started to become a reality. The family moved across the cornfield to have more space and the preschool remodel began. Elizabeth has a Bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology, Pre-K-12 teaching certificate as well as a Master’s in Special Education, but she wants to focus on the younger children.
“The years I stayed home part time 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, assisting with language development and social skills in young children.”
Country Learning Center focuses on basic academic skills, social and life skills. “We spend half of our day outside learning, playing and tending to the farm animals,” Ingram said. The students will collect the eggs from the chickens as well as feed and water the animals. “We will get new calves every summer, so the students will get to name their cow for the year, every August.”
Part of the curriculum of the learning center is called ‘Farm to School’, where the focus is on a garden item every month. “The children will be involved with our school garden and in a couple of 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.”
On Fridays, another teacher will join Elizabeth for ‘Faith Learning Time’ with the students.
The criteria for the students is that three-year-olds must be three before September 1st and the four-year-olds must be four before September 1st. Students must be potty trained as well as have their own transportation for drop off and pick up.
Currently, the class size is a around ten and split into a three-year-old class and a four-year-old class – a morning section and an afternoon section.
In the fall or winter, Elizabeth, along with her husband, Brad, plan to expand the cattle pasture. After the corn is picked from the field, surrounding the property, the Ingram’s want to fence in two acres of it. Years down the road, they hope to get more farm animals.
With the excitement of a new school and plans to expand, Elizabeth is hopeful for the future.
“My biggest hope is for my students to love school. 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.”
Country Learning Center is a technology free, hands on school with a country experience. “We sing several songs, read books daily, ask a lot of questions and wave to tractors and horse and buggies that drive by, all while learning many things!”