Ever since she was little, Amy McCormick knew she wanted to be a pre-school teacher. She took her dream one step further in June 2010, when as a teacher at Do and Learn Day Nursery, she purchased the school from the original owners.
“My own kids came here,” McCormick said. “They are very supportive. People say to me ‘Your guys are always there. Your kids are always helping.’”
Matthew, Branden and Colin—though grown up—continue to help as needed along with their dad, Scott McCormick.
She describes Branden as her “social butterfly.” A high school senior, and star of his school’s swim team, he designed Amy’s Do and Learn website and the end of the year DVD for parents. Colin, her youngest, is a 5th grader.
“He loves to come back and play with the kids and do different things with them during the summer,” McCormick said.
When Mathew, her oldest, is home from college, he mows the school’s lawn and moves things in his spare time, while also working full-time.
“My husband [Scott] and I do all the maintenance and cleaning at the school,” McCormick said. “The major stuff. They all do something. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Amy’s Do and Learn teaches 3- and 4-year olds from September through June. Each summer, there is an eight-week summer camp for children 3 through entering first graders. The school closes for a week in June and the last two weeks each summer in order to do major maintenance projects.
McCormick has a degree in early childhood education and is certified to teach through fifth grade. Growing up she worked at summer camps at Mercer County Community College, and babysat.
“I never wanted to go above kindergarten,” McCormick said. “I always knew this was where I would be, much to my dad’s chagrin. I wanted to be in the classroom: sitting on the floor; throwing lesson plans out the window because it is snowing out and we can have fun. They have a genuine love of learning and for you at this age.”
McCormick is helped by her staff members, many of them who have been at the school for a long time. For example, Linda Shuren has been a teaching assistant for 30 years; Tammy Kieffer, another assistant teacher, has been with her for six years, and Cheryl Vaspory for 10 years.
“I have a fabulous staff,” McCormick said. “I’m only as good as the people I have working for me. They are dedicated. They love each one as their own.
“We are a family. We share our joys and sadness together. We support each other professionally and personally.”
As director and a teacher, McCormick wears many hats throughout the day. She said she likes to be involved in all aspects of the school.
“I never wanted to give up the interaction with the kids,” McCormick said. “I teach the music and movement class.”
A typical day at Amy’s Do and Learn balances having all the children together for some classes, such as music and movement. Small group activities are broken up by age, with the curriculum taught by certified teachers. Each lead teacher also does a special. Sandra Gilson, the lead teacher in the 4-year old program, also teachers calendar and story time. Vaspory, the 3-year old teacher, also teaches the science curriculum.
An example of the science curriculum is a unit on dental hygiene. In addition to having someone visit from Hamilton Dental, the students had a hands-on activity where they soaked eggs in Coca-Cola then scrubbed the eggs clean. They used egg cartons to make the mouth, and used yarn for dental floss to clean the “teeth” to mimic the importance of keeping their own teeth clean.
Another recent lesson was when the 4-year olds created vases using the letter V and drew flowers in it.
“We incorporate a lot of different concepts in our lessons—positioning words: top of paper, behind something, etc.” McCormick said. “We including a lot of counting and number recognition with hole-punched colored dots that had to be counted out to decorate the vase. Our projects are multi-faceted.”
On the back of each project, the staff describes the different parts of the lesson so the parents also understand what is being taught, and why.
Amy’s Do and Learn offers full and part-time programs. The basic class runs from 9 a.m. to noon. This is followed by a lunch break for the 4-year olds and an enrichment class “for a taste of kindergarten” that is optional. During the enrichment class, staff reiterates what is taught in the 4-year old program. Students are not missing anything if they don’t do it, McCormick said.
The full-day program also includes a nap or rest. Staff gives students “homework assignments” to get them used to the idea of doing homework. It is not mandatory, but about 90 percent of what’s assigned does come back.
During the school year, Amy’s Do and Learn is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to accommodate working parents’ schedules. Registration is now open for the 2017-18 school year.
Amy’s Do and Learn is located at 2575 Yardville-Hamilton Square Road in Hamilton Square. Phone: (609) 890-1330.