Written by Abbie Walker | Photographed by Joe Ellis

Since 1985, St. Luke’s Early Childhood Learning Center has been educating children ages four months to four years. Those original students are now returning with children of their own, and though the name is new, St. Luke’s Preschool, the level of excellence remains the same.

The preschool program’s name change is a part of the recent rebranding of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church of Jackson. “Our commitment has always been to serve the community, regardless of church membership or faith affiliation,” says St. Luke’s Senior Pastor Ricky James. “As the church has recently developed a new logo identity, we decided to extend that new image to the preschool as well, to communicate the unity of the church and school.”

“We wanted to make it clear that we are an extension of the church, not a separate entity,” adds Mary-Crosby Roberts, director of St. Luke’s Preschool. “We are constantly changing and trying to do things better, and rebranding is a part of that.”

Roberts earned her bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of Mississippi and her master’s in learning curriculum from Vanderbilt University. She taught in Jackson Public Schools before St. Luke’s. “It’s a blessing and a challenge following in the footsteps of Cathy Sumrall, who built this program,” she says.

What are a few of St. Luke’s Preschool’s strengths? Intimate class sizes, Roberts points out. The program consists of 75 students spread out over 8 classes. “It is one of our core beliefs,” says Roberts, “that at such an early, impressionable age, students need undivided attention and a teacher that can focus on the specific needs and progress of every single student.”

St. Luke’s also prides itself on the fact that no screens are allowed in the classrooms. “We are centered around play,” says Roberts. “While students are here, they are interacting with and learning from each other.”

They also try to get kids exploring the world around them. Whether it’s a field trip to the fire museum or the pumpkin patch, Roberts says they encourage students to be “community helpers.” They also take trips to Fondren Fro-Yo, Campbell’s Bakery and Brent’s. “It’s great that we have so many great businesses within walking distance,” says Roberts.

When it comes to curriculum, Roberts tries to incorporate a variety of tried-and-true methods with more innovative approaches. “I believe it’s best to take into account many different types,” she says. “You need to have structure, while also being open to new forms of learning.”

Roberts says the three-and four-year-old programs are particularly strong in helping prepare students for the next level of education. “It’s so rewarding to hear from other schools when they can automatically pinpoint a St. Luke’s child in their kindergarten classes,” she says.

St. Luke’s Preschool feels like a family. “Each teacher knows every single child, so the students are greeted by familiar faces,” she says. Some staff have been there since the program began. “There is a great mix of established teachers, as well as new teachers with fresh ideas,” adds Roberts.

St. Luke’s Preschool has students from all over the Jackson area that go on to attend a variety of public and private schools. “We try to foster an inviting, welcoming, and accepting environment,” Roberts says. They’ve also expanded their hours to accommodate community needs.

While Roberts wishes every parent could send their child to St. Luke’s Preschool, there is a waiting list to enroll. But she says she is constantly pushing to make the program the best it can be and is excited about the rebranding. “It is our hope that this new symbol of our school will strengthen and unify all that we stand for as a highly-esteemed preschool in the Jackson area,” says Roberts.

St. Luke’s Preschool feels like a family. “Each teacher knows every single child, so the students are greeted by familiar faces,” she says. Some staff have been there since the program began. “There is a great mix of established teachers, as well as new teachers with fresh ideas,” adds Roberts.

St. Luke’s Preschool has students from all over the Jackson area that go on to attend a variety of public and private schools. “We try to foster an inviting, welcoming, and accepting environment,” Roberts says. They’ve also expanded their hours to accommodate community needs.

While Roberts wishes every parent could send their child to St. Luke’s Preschool, there is a waiting list to enroll. But she says she is constantly pushing to make the program the best it can be and is excited about the rebranding. “It is our hope that this new symbol of our school will strengthen and unify all that we stand for as a highly-esteemed preschool in the Jackson area,” says Roberts.

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