Tigard Playschool still strong after all these years

The cooperative preschool is already making preparations for its 50th anniversary, which will be in two years
by: Barbara Sherman, WATER NYMPH — Susie Long-Clark (left), director of Tigard Preschool, and teacher Camille Stockton have fun in Jurgens Park with Rachel Huff, 4, during a recent get-together with moms and kids.

TIGARD - Some of the original playmates at Tigard Playschool are now grandparents, but that's bound to happen when an organization has been going strong for 48 years.

In two years, Tigard Playschool will celebrate its 50th anniversary and wants to get the word out that everyone who's been affiliated with the school is invited for the big event.

'We're starting to make plans for the celebration,' said Susie Long-Clark, who has been the school's director for 16 years. 'We have parents and grandparents coming with their kids and grandkids.'

She attributes part of the preschool's success to 'our awesome location,' which has always been in the basement of the Tigard United Methodist Church.

'And we get really good staff, so there's little turnover,' Long-Clark added.

New this year will be teacher Camille Stockton, but since she was an assistant teacher at the school last year, she is already a familiar face.

Long-Clark also teaches, and the other teacher is Trudi Sang.

The preschool is open to kids who will turn 3 years old by November each year, and they can stay there until the age of 6. The school's capacity is 78 children.

The school offers a one-to-four ratio of adults to kids, and tuition is kept low because Tigard Playschool is a co-op. Parents normally participate twice a month.

'We educate the parents, so they know what to expect developmentally,' Long-Clark said. 'We are very child-directed. There is no right way to do something. We're more into the creative right-brain concept, which allows children to discover and embrace their creativity. We are totally out of the box.

'Half of our focus is what is right for the child, and the other half is for the parents. We don't push flashcards, for instance. Younger kids think differently than 7-year-olds.'

Long-Clark believes that the experiences in the classroom give parents confidence in their own abilities - 'they learn they are their child's best and first teacher,' she said.

Another bonus for families involved in Tigard Playschool is that bonds and friendships form among both the kids and parents, according to Long-Clark.

'There's babysitting trades, carpooling and networking, like choosing a doctor,' she said.

And later on, the public schools benefit.

Tigard Playschool parents who have been involved in the co-op go on to become volunteers extraordinaire at their children's elementary and other schools. They serve as PSO leaders, lead fund-raisers and are 'active, trained, ready and committed,' Long-Clark said.

Every week this summer, staff, parents and kids alternate meeting for informal get-togethers at Jurgens Park in Tualatin and Summerlake Park in Tigard, where the kids can play on the equipment and the moms can get better acquainted.

Recently, Long-Clark and Stockton met with some moms and kids at Jurgens Park, where the kids played in the sand and water.

'I'm a co-op kid,' said Stockton, who attended Sherwood Playschool, which is affiliated with Tigard Playschool. 'My mom was president when I was there, and she did daycare.'

Long-Clark added, 'We were very excited to hire her. We only hire teachers with degrees in early-childhood education. Camille has a keen sense of assessing children's needs - that's something you don't learn in books.'

Tigard Playschool offers four classes - one each for 3- and 4-year-olds, plus a mixed-age class for 3- to 5-year-olds and a pre-kindergarten class.

The school is located at 9845 S.W. Walnut Place.

For more information, or if you were formerly affiliated with the school, visit www.tigardplayschool.com or call 503-639-8110.