An Excelsior Early Childhood Center Expands Its Programming for Toddlers

For mom Kate Stevens, choosing childcare for her two young sons was no easy task. “We toured a number of different places, and I left a lot of them in tears,” Stevens says. Then Stevens found Our Savior School.
“Our Savior has always been so welcoming,” Stevens says. “The minute we left we thought, ‘Yep, this is where we’re supposed to be.’”

Our Savior, located in Excelsior, offers programming for children from age 2 through kindergarten. Currently, the center has 52 children and space for more, with  care offered daily year-round, from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Students must attend a minimum of two days each week.
The school recently expanded its toddler program, which is designed for children from 24 to 32 months. “That group is focused a lot on the social and emotional development of children learning to play together,” says Our Savior’s principal, Fred Limmel. “We teach them to use gentle hands and kind words, and help them move beyond their me-centered world.”

Limmel says the toddlers are preparing for preschool by singing songs, participating in large motor activities and playing outside on the playground. The school also helps the children with potty training, table manners and learning how to drink out of a cup and eat with a spoon.

“It’s a fun program,” Limmel says. “The children are so wide-eyed. They’re like little sponges.”

The school recently added to their playground to accommodate the littlest students. “We have installed several new pieces that are designed just for the 2-year-olds to play on,” Limmel says. “There is a sand area covered with a big umbrella, a shed filled with sand toys and riding toys. It is all fenced in, too.”

In addition to the toddler program, the school offers a preschool program, which is now in its 37th year. Because the school is an arm of Our Savior Lutheran Church, faith is a part of the curriculum. The students attend age-appropriate chapel services. All students also have the benefit of a Spanish curriculum. A Spanish teacher spends time with each age group once a week.

Our Savior also offers a kindergarten program for students who might not be ready for a traditional kindergarten experience. Limmel says the program, which currently has three students, focuses on laying foundations with language and math skills. Most students at Our Savior go on to attend neighborhood schools in the Minnetonka School District.

Our Savior is accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Lutheran Schools Accreditation.

Limmel says these accreditations are important because they give parents confidence in the program. “Both have stringent standards that they adhere to, and you have to gather evidence that you can meet or exceed them,” Limmel says. “Our center earned a 98 percent [rating from NAEYC]. We were so thrilled. It was a grueling process, but it made us stronger.”

Early childhood education is important because of the support it provides parents, Limmel says. “Our philosophy is to really collaborate with parents in laying a foundation for skills for children. In our particular case, this includes faith foundations along with the academic pieces,” he says. “It is Christian-centered. The faith of Our Savior is pretty simple. Faith and academic excellence as we collaborate with parents to raise children to excel.”

For parents like Stevens, collaboration is one of the many things making Our Savior special. “There are lots of things that are great, but the staff is the No. 1 driving factor,” Stevens says. “They care for the kids and treat them like they’re one of their own. Mr. Limmel is a phenomenal leader. He never forgets a name or a face.”