Ann Priebe
Ann Priebe
Ann Priebe is coordinating a community under three feet tall.

She's doing it from her old new home.

"I am the Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) coordinator and parent educator, meaning that I teach both children ages birth to 5 and facilitate discussions with their families, building relationships and community between parents and children in our area," said the former Ann Hansen, daughter of Stafford and Loretta Hansen of rural Spring Valley, who has returned to her alma mater to teach the smallest children the largest ways to explore the wide world.

Priebe is a 1998 Kingsland graduate, as well as graduating from Saint Mary's in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre arts and a minor in music, and graduating again from Saint Mary's in 2004 with a Master of Arts in instruction.

"I chose to become a teacher after working with Missoula Children's Theatre from 2002 to 2003. I thought I was acting and directing, but really, I was teaching. I loved working with children, especially the elementary aged ones, and I decided to return to graduate school for my master's and elementary teaching license."

Her teaching experience has been both chilly and intercontinental. "I have taught a third and fourth multi-aged class in Newtok, Alaska, and two years of second grade in St. Paul. I have also taught music and theatre to over 1,800 children across the United States and Europe when I worked for Missoula Children's Theatre. I also had the opportunity to substitute teach in County Clare, Ireland, and taught a variety of subjects to students ages 4 to 12."

Priebe returned to the Kingsland School District with her husband, Christopher Priebe, and their three children.

"My family decided to move to Spring Valley when my husband accepted the pre-K through sixth grade principal position. I had plans of remaining a stay-at-home mother and finding an ECFE group, building a community of parents that I had found in St. Paul, but when the Kingsland ECFE position opened up, I was intrigued.

"I always thought it would be a great opportunity to teach in the community that I grew up in. I'm excited and honored to have the chance to do it."

The couple's first son, Thomas, was born in September 2008, and their second son, William, in February 2010, and they have a daughter, Vivian, who is 5 months old. They also have a yellow lab named Max, and have inherited a farm dog, Rascal, since moving back to Spring Valley.

"When Thomas was 3 and William 18 months, I opened an in-home preschool for children ages 2 to 3 years old. It was based on the Minnesota early learning standards, and the children learned through play about early math and literacy skills, as well as building relationships with each other and the outdoors," she said.

"I decided to apply for the Kingsland ECFE job after I saw the position was continuing to be posted. I have been involved in Saint Paul ECFE for the past four years, and I feel that it is an excellent program for parents to find the support they need and children to explore as a community of learners."

She chose to teach Early Childhood Family Education because she feels that "starting with families and children from birth creates a community from day one, and from there, the relationships within the community and school are strengthened to help ensure positive educational experiences for the child and family."

Priebe said the most important thing a child can learn in school is how to learn. "I hope we can create self-motivated individuals who are on track for a life of exploring and learning with respect and responsibility."

She reiterated that she's ready to take on the task of bringing families together for educational fun. "I am most looking forward to creating a community of families that can find support from each other and through resources in ECFE classes. I know winter can be long and isolating and weekly ECFE classes can be a nice outlet for children to burn off extra energy, for parents to connect with one another, and for families to grow together.

She added, "I am also looking forward to building relationships within the Spring Valley and Wykoff area. I have been away for nearly 15 years and while a lot has stayed the same, there are many new faces, especially children, and I look forward to meeting each of you and your families."

Priebe enjoys her new job simply because it involves children. "I love working with children at all ages, and I am happy to be back in the school part time. I love the buzz in an ECFE classroom with children at such different ages."

She is aware that there may be challenges ahead. "The main challenge I foresee with ECFE is getting the word out to parents about what Early Childhood Family Education is and what classes we have to offer," she noted.

ECFE is open to all families with children ages birth to 5 - those not currently enrolled in kindergarten, regardless of income, school district, or number of children. Families do not have to have a child enrolled in Kingsland to take advantage of Kingsland ECFE.

ECFE offerings

"We currently have two free weekly classes - a drop-in open gym in Kingsland's Café on Tuesdays starting Jan. 15, from 3:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., where parents can come play with their children and burn off that winter energy, and story hour at the Spring Valley Library on Thursdays, starting Jan. 10 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. where I will read stories to the children and follow up with early literacy activities," said Priebe.

She has determined that her mission is to inform the district's parents of what ECFE programs they are missing out on with their children - learning opportunities and chances to meet and make new friends.

"We also have three weekly classes at the elementary school, Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., beginning Jan. 22, Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., beginning Jan. 24.

She said these classes are a "traditional ECFE class" with parent-child interaction in the ECFE room and then the parents will go to the parent room for topic discussions. "The children continue in the ECFE child room with Kelly Simon, the licensed pre-K teacher, and enjoy developmentally appropriate activities," said Priebe.

"Ms. Simon is a great addition to Kingsland's preschool program - my son Thomas adores being in class with her - and she is excited to also join ECFE."

Aside from the weekly ECFE classes, she hopes to offer other monthly evening options for families.

"We are working with Jennifer Campbell and Kelly Opseth on a huge book event scheduled for Jan. 27 from 9 to 11 a.m. in Kingsland's Café, and there is also an event in the works with Rita Bezdicek and Ruth Franke - two retired home economic teachers - about great skills that will make your life easier at home. I have heard great feedback about the father-daughter dance event, and I hope to bring that back as well."

She invited, "If people have questions, they can check out Kingsland's website at www.kingsland.k12.mn.us and click on 'Community Ed,' 'Early Childhood Programs,' then 'ECFE,' or contact me at priebe.ann@kingsland.k12.mn.us, or call 507-346-7276 extension 4102."