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20-year-old dream comes to fruition

August 4, 2018

What started as a dream 20 years ago became a reality when AngelSugar Preschool opened its door in Columbus.

“For the last two decades, I’ve been collecting books, toys and information, building this dream,” said Columbus native Stacy Soward, director of AngelSugar Preschool. “And when I got here, it was time to do it.”

AngelSugar Preschool, 4225 23rd St., is open to children between the ages of 3 to 5, with 29 spots available for the upcoming school year, which starts on Aug. 20. The school’s calendar closely resembles Columbus Public Schools’ calendar.

“This is my favorite age,” Soward said. “To a lot of people it is the hardest age but I love it. If you keep them busy, it’s smooth.”

Soward said there is a need for more preschools in the area due to the majority of them filling up relatively quickly, leaving an average of 10-30 students on the waiting list.

Columbus resident Amy Lopez was surveying the area for prospective preschools to enroll her 7-month-old daughter in the future when she stumbled upon AngelSugar Preschool.

“It’s very homey, so I think the kids will feel at home here,” Lopez said. “And I think it does look age-appropriate for kids 3 to 5 years old … It’s a nice option to have another preschool opening.”

Soward said growing up in Columbus and attending local preschools impacted her, which eventually rippled into a passion for early childhood development.

“I just wanted to do that for Columbus because there are a lot of good schools here but there’s nothing like this,” she said.

Soward left the community after graduating from Scotus Central Catholic High School in 1993 to pursue her bachelor’s degree in child development and family studies at the University of North Texas. She lived in Texas for approximately eight years before moving to Louisiana, where she resided for the last 14 years.

After living in the south for two decades, Soward said she noticed the rising trend of Montessori-based education in the south and wanted to implement that type of learning into her hometown when she moved back into the area two years ago. It is a type of program that focuses on critical thinking where students learn through sensory-motor activities, working with materials to develop their cognition through sight, listening, taste, smell, touch and movement.

“It is a different way of teaching kids,” she said. “It’s a lot of hands-on learning and they are learning at their own pace … It’s kind of back to the old-school learning.”

Soward said when students graduate from the preschool, they will be well-prepared for reading and writing in kindergarten.

AngelSugar Preschool, which is named after the nicknames of Soward’s two daughters, is also a Christian-centered educational institution, implementing Christian principles, values, habits and teachings daily. Students will start and end their days with prayers with Bible lessons, she said.

Soward said because the preschool is state-licensed it’s helped boost its standards by only recruiting teachers who either have degrees in early education or child development, or individuals working toward their degrees.

“The last time I checked, there are only eight preschools in all of Platte County that are state-licensed,” she said. “But it sets you up on a higher notch, a higher standard.”

Soward grew up with four other siblings and said she understands the financial struggles families go through to enroll their children in educational institutions.

Since AngelSugar Preschool is licensed by the state, Soward said she is able to offer government assistance to families who can’t afford tuition.

“It’s very important to me because growing up, there were five of us siblings and my parents couldn’t afford this,” she said. “And that’s why I wanted this to be state-licensed.”

Soward said one of the unique services the preschool offers is a carpool lane which she said parents are excited about.

Parents will have a segregated lane to drop off and pick up their children in front of the school, where each student will be personally escorted by preschool staff to and from the car.

As the first day of school draws near, Soward said she looks forward to implementing different teaching techniques she’s learned from past experiences.

“We are getting lots of good feedback from people in the community,” she said. “A lot of teachers that know Montessori are very excited.”

Those interested in enrolling their children into AngelSugar Preschool are encouraged to schedule a tour by calling 402-910-9375.

AngelSugar Preschool will be hosting an open house event in collaboration with the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, from 4-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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