Little Red School House celebrates 20 years

It’s hard to miss the Little Red School House, complete with an antique school bell on top, on Bayard Road. The building, which blends in with the scenery and looks as if it were an actual restored school house, was, in fact, built just 20 years ago by owner/teacher “Miss Debbie” Jahnigen and her family.

Coastal Point • Monica Fleming: Students and faculty at the Little Red School House have fun and learn — as they’ve done for 20 years now.Coastal Point • Monica Fleming
Students and faculty at the Little Red School House have fun and learn — as they’ve done for 20 years now.

After teaching preschool for many years, Jahnigen took the plunge and started the school 20 years ago this Oct. 1. The building has since become a landmark and that first class of graduating 4-year-olds now are getting their master’s degrees and starting families.

“I taught for many years,” said Jahnigen. “The school and the design was a long time dream of mine. I felt back then that the community and the children were ready for a top-notch preschool, as a good and complete preschool education is the foundation of education and forms the basis of all the school years to come.”

Jahnigen emphasizes that they are not a daycare center, rather a private pre-school and a necessary step before “big school.” They have a morning and afternoon 3-year-old class and a morning and afternoon 4-year-old class, and they recommend children attend both years if possible.

The children get a structured lesson plan for the day. Each takes turns being the leader, and they learn to mingle and socialize with one another. They participate in all the major holidays and have a big Christmas and Easter party, complete with Santa and the Easter Bunny.

Besides the fun, they also put a great emphasis on teaching the children the fundamentals of public speaking so once they get to kindergarten and beyond they are less intimidated by it.

“It’s really important to introduce them to be able to perform in front of people so they are ready for big school,” explained Jahnigen. “If anything, they are over-prepared for kindergarten, but I love that they have that jumpstart.”

And what a jumpstart it is. Many of the 4-year-olds have big plans for the future and have nothing but praise and accolades for Little Red.

For Joey, who “wants to work” when he grows up, he is very much enjoying his first week at Little Red. Dalton, who wants to be a robot or take over his dad’s health club business, is satisfied with the curriculum as well. Misty, who is new this year, and whose mom is a principal at an elementary school, likes the school a lot and shared that she wants to be a princess when she grows up.

Carly, also new this year and who has a brother in the 3-year old class, enjoys Little Red and shared that she plans to become Cinderella when she is an adult. Shona, whose favorite thing about school is “cleaning up,” wants to be Pocahontas.

The career theme seemed to veer more toward Halloween, but they were adamant that these were career goals and, if nothing else, school should teach that one can be anything when they grow up, right?

Jonathan has plans on becoming a builder and playing on the playground is his favorite part of the day. Marshall dreams of being a fireman and enjoys the playground too. Brice, who has plans to “go to work” when he gets big, likes school simply because he likes it, and Nicole, another future princess, enjoys storytime.

Jack, a future racecar driver, likes the playground the most and Tai, new this year and who also has a sister in the 3-year-old class, likes snack time. He has plans on being a professional athlete – he is torn between football and soccer.

Alara enjoys painting and has hopes of becoming Ariel from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” Kylee, who garnered cheers of, “Yes, girls can do it!” plans on being a firefighter and enjoys playing with her friends. And Olivia has nursing in her future.

Most of the dedicated staff, all of whom are “loving and caring” have been with the school since its inception. Staff includes Miss Debbie, Miss Ann Marie, Miss Pam, Miss Judy, Miss Dawn, Miss Ali, Miss Tabitha and Miss Wanda.

“What we do is simply break things down to the simplest terms,” explained Jahnigen. “We talk to them as adults, and they learn the rules so quickly. We want them to learn but we want them to have fun at the same time. If they graduate and they love school, then we’ve done our job,” she said.

In celebration of their 20th year, for the first time, they will be giving out a “Believe” scholarship to both an Indian River High School student and a James H. Groves student.

“The scholarship for the IRHS student is for a student who plans on pursuing a career in teaching, especially early childhood or art,” explained Jahnigen. “And many times there are students who are not college-bound but instead wish to pursue a trade and we can sometimes forget that our tradespeople are the foundation of our community.” The James H. Grove scholarship will be for a student with plans to pursue a trade.

The word “Believe” is special to Jahnigen in that she is a five-year cancer survivor, as are three of her teachers. They plan on selling “Believe, The Little Red School House Scholarship Fund Cookbook” to raise funds and hope that the scholarships will be available next spring. Any other monies raised will go to the John’s Hopkins Center for Cancer Research.

As for the future beyond that, they plan on simply holding their own and continuing to educate preschoolers — the area’s future nurses, firefighters, business owners, princesses and racecar drivers.