Early Childhood Education

The early childhood education experience recognizes an important characteristic of child development – no two students grow and develop the same way or at the same time. Because a child learns through exploration and discovery, we facilitate purposeful play through hands-on experiences related to engaging, thematic units.

The role of play during preschool and kindergarten, as research shows, provides constructive opportunities for students to investigate their world, which develops scientific thinking. Investigation also allows children to develop understandings of cause and effect, change and patterns, and properties of form and function. This is how our early childhood students learn to draw conclusions and generate theories about their world and refine them.


Social and Emotional Development

Self-regulation of emotions and behavior is one of the strongest predictors of academic and life success. With our early childhood education program, it is our goal to create a warm environment where every child feels secure, valued and cared about. Through carefully selected activities and a Biblical focus, we seek to develop each child’s understanding and respect for themselves and others. We teach the essential life skills of problem solving, sharing, empathy, perspective taking and self-control. We create confident learners that have the foundational tools they need for continued success in school and beyond.

Early Childhood Photos

Pictures with academic explanations are updated daily.

Curricular Areas

English Language Arts

We work to build each child’s vocabulary and understanding of grammar through guided conversations with teachers and peers and by sharing picture stories, songs and rhymes. These activities build reading comprehension strategies as well as phonological awareness. Kindergarteners take this one step further engaging in Daily 5 for reading practice and instruction as well as Writer’s Workshop to focus on the development of each child’s writing skills. We create young learners who love reading and writing and who are successful at both.


Our program utilizes everyday experiences to develop mathematical concepts in our youngest learners. In both large and small groups students are introduced to concepts such as number sense (counting, number recognition, and numerals), patterns, graphing, sorting and measuring. By making this learning part of our everyday experiences, children learn practical applications for math and its usefulness in their lives. Kindergarten utilizes the Everyday Math curriculum, a researched-based program that provides a problem-solving approach based on everyday situations.


Students are introduced to musical concepts such as tempo, pitch, pulse, rhythm, voice, dynamics and sound identification. Movement is encouraged as students learn to move their bodies to the music of different cultures and engage in hands on experiences with a variety of instruments. Students also learn about music as a means of story telling. Additionally, they learn how song is a means of praising God as they practice and prepare to sing as a choir during Sunday worship throughout the year.


God created children with an innate curiosity. We seek to encourage this curiosity while building foundational scientific skills. In our science centers children are encouraged to develop their observational skills. Through weekly experiments, we introduce and teach the science concepts of hypothesis, data collection and analysis. We explore a variety of topics such as senses, seasonal changes, states of matter, life cycles and forces of nature. In kindergarten, students are encouraged to design their own experiments to test ideas that they encounter throughout their day.

Bible Stories

In the Early Childhood classes, the students hear and learn the Bible stories that form the basis of God’s work in history to create and sustain His creation. They learn that God reveals himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; that forgiveness and grace is how He loves us; and that we return His love by loving others. Through weekly chapel, daily Bible stories, and in our daily life faith formation begins to place the child in the context of God’s big picture.


At the preschool level, we teach process art which focuses on the individual’s interactions with different art mediums. Children are given opportunities to work with finger-paint, watercolors, chalk, collage, drawing, sketching, stamping and more. Teachers focus on how each child interacts with the materials and seek to develop their interest, curiosity and language through these shared experiences. Kindergarteners participate in a more formal art curriculum exploring concepts such as color, lines, modality, observational drawing, portraiture, collage and an exploration of famous artists.


The early childhood Mandarin instruction gives students conversational skills and increases vocabulary within the structure of everyday experiences. Students build a basic understanding of the Mandarin language structure and enhance their ear for language as well their sound production. In addition to research based cognitive benefits, students become familiar with the diversity of language and culture and build a greater worldview.

Choice Time

For young children, play is important work. Children grow, learn and investigate the world through play. This happens through complex play activities that invite them to think, problem-solve, and participate in fantasy. When children engage in play, they have to plan, create a focus, and strive for a goal — all essential life and work skills. Our teachers provide play situations throughout the day to encourage the development of these skills.

Fine & Large Motor Skills

Fine motor movements involve the coordination of small muscles in the hands and fingers. Strong fine motor skills are essential for beginning writing and drawing with detail. Through focused activities, our program provides a large variety of opportunities for each child to develop their fine motor skills, so that they are ready for beginning writing and other complex fine motor tasks. We utilize a program called Handwriting Without Tears to more formally teach beginning letter formation.

Large motor skills include movement, like running, dancing or jumping, and manipulation, such as throwing, catching and kicking. Through a variety of teacher-initiated activities, we work to develop each child’s large motor competency. In addition, students participate in daily recess, which allows for student selected large motor activities. These two aspects combined help each child learn to move more easily, have confidence in their abilities and provide health benefits, as children stay active .

Program Highlights

Lemonade Stand

Each year the Kindergarten opens a Lemonade stand. The Kindergarten Lemonade Stand uses experiential learning to help students apply classroom topics to the world of work. Research has demonstrated that when students learn by doing, they retain significantly more knowledge than through lectures or reading.

Kindergarten Play

Each year the students select and perform a play or series of plays for the school and their families. Students begin by reading a variety of stories and deciding which one, or ones, they would like to perform. They select parts and are divided into teams to work on the various aspects of the performance including set design, costume design, ticket making and counting, program design etc. Students rehearse the play and also attend a live theater performance from one of the many theaters that Chicago has to offer, to learn more about theater productions.

Early Childhood Teachers

Julie Hess
Preschool Teacher

Mrs. Hess teaches the 5 half and full day early childhood class.

Email: jhess@stjames-lutheran.org

Sheila Amdur
Preschool Teacher
Jennifer Marcantonio
Junior Kindergarten Teacher
Brittani Mosinski
Junior Kindergarten Teacher

Brittani Mosinski teaches junior kindergarten. She has her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Northeastern Illinois University with a minor in fine arts with a focus in metals and painting. She also has a masters in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University where she wrote her thesis on the uses and benefits of environmental print in the classroom.

Email bmosinski@stjames-lutheran.org

Marie Adams
Kindergarten Teacher
Kristina Ecklund
Kindergarten Teacher
Karen Gast
Music Teacher

Karen Gast teaches music in early childhood through fourth grade and directs the middle school Honor’s Choir.  She focuses on the Orff method for music education that engages the whole child in learning music as it incorporates the natural rhythm of speech and language and builds in the movement that young children love.   Now retired from the classroom where she enjoyed integrating music within all subject areas, Mrs. Gast focuses on her love of music education.  She worked toward her Orff certification at DePaul University and continues her involvement in the GCAOSA, the greater Chicago Orff Association.

Email kgast@stjames-lutheran.org

Katie Wenzel
School Counselor

Ms. Wenzel is the school counselor.

Email kwenzel@stjames-lutheran.org

Lynda Runge
Director of Early Childhood

Lynda Runge serves the community as the Director of Early Childhood. Mrs. Runge’s knowledge of child development and positive discipline allow her to develop independent problem solving and social skills programs for our students. Through observation she capitalizes on child interest to craft experiences where students observe and manipulate to expand their current understanding and synthesize and apply new information. Mrs. Runge earned her bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University and her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the Erikson Institute in Chicago.

Email ladams@stjames-lutheran.org

Have questions or want to learn more about St. James?

We look forward to meeting you and showing you all that St. James has to offer your family.

Funding a quality education requires more than just tuition; it requires the support and generosity of the whole community.

St. James Lutheran School

2101 N Fremont St Chicago, IL 60614   |   Phone : 773-525-4990     Fax : 773-326-3645

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