"All of the teachers go above and beyond for their students. They are at Harding Academy because they really want to be there."
When thinking about her children starting school, McKenna Pruitt knew she wanted her oldest daughter, Hunter, to begin in pre-kindergarten to make the transition a smooth one.
“She needed that middle step where she had a low key experience but got used to the classroom,” Pruitt said. “Her being able to socialize and make friends was an important part to me and my husband, and the Academy offered so many extra activities like music and art classes that I knew I couldn’t do on my own with her.”
The Academy’s Pre-K program serves 3- and 4-year-olds and gives them a Christ-centered environment to learn, play and grow. With the view that the early childhood years are a foundational time to establish a love of God and excitement for education, the program creates a safe space for children to explore and develop.
In addition to daily chapel and music, art and P.E. classes, the Pre-K classes also utilize play exercises that teach and reinforce spiritual, academic and social concepts.
“The Academy is a lot more of a family atmosphere than I would imagine elsewhere, more so than we experienced when our kids were at other places,” Pruitt said. “I felt like her teachers really tailored their instruction to her needs and kept me informed and involved.”
All of the teachers and aides hold degrees in education and use their knowledge and experience to create a developmentally appropriate environment for their young learners. Through games, centers, lessons and other activities, teachers are able to focus on the class as a whole as well as individual students to make sure each child feels successful and confident, which helps them when they transition to kindergarten.
“I think it was such an easy transition for Hunter when she moved to kindergarten,” Pruitt said. “She was so familiar with all of the academics, too, so it just wasn’t stressful for her. Pre-K gets those routines set and established. That helped her see, ‘I’m really capable, I can do this.’”
The Pre-K provides an introduction for many to the Academy, and its students are quickly integrated into the entire school. From being partnered up with high school seniors and attending pep rallies, to visiting with Harding University football players through Bison Buddies and making trips to area senior centers, the Pre-K is involved with the entire community.
“They learn to interact with people of all different ages,” Pruitt said. “They are already being exposed to that spirit of service and loving on people.”
The program’s curriculum is Bible-based, and through that emphasis, the Pre-K offers lasting connections that extend past the year or two students spend in the classroom.
“There can be more of a relationship because it is faith based, and you are working toward things other than just education,” Pruitt says. “All of the teachers go above and beyond for their students. They are at Harding Academy because they really want to be there. The teachers are invested in the school and its students. They try very hard to be the best of the best.”
Knowing that those seeds of faith and learning are being planted so early on her children’s heart is what makes Pruitt happy to have chosen the Academy.
“My kids are wanting to pray, and I get to hear about what they pray for at school,” Pruitt says. “They come home, and when they know there is something stressful or bad happening, they say, ‘Well I’m going to pray about that.’ That is just invaluable.”