Marion Chenault to retire at the end of the school year

Marion Chenault, who has served as director of St. Stephen's Preschool since 2001, has announced her plans to retire at the conclusion of the 2018-19 school year.

"Marion's love of children and her expertise in their nurture and care are well known," said the Rev. Gary D. Jones, the rector of St. Stephen's Church.

"Although Marion rightly points out that the church's preschool is great because of its teachers and families, the fact is that Marion is the one who attracted such fabulous teachers and families. Caring for children and helping them to grow up thriving, with joy and wonder, are central to the mission of St. Stephen's Church, and we are all grateful for Marion's expert guidance."  

Marion is highly regarded among early childhood educators, and during her tenure, the preschool received national accreditation.

Prior to joining St. Stephen's Preschool, Marion was the director of Richmond Child Development Center's Ellwood House, which she co-founded in 1982.

The Randolph-Macon Woman's College graduate founded Educational Associates, a tutoring agency, in 1976 and taught middle school science for seven years before that. Marion and her husband Cabell, who have two adult children and two grandchildren, are active members of St. Stephen's. Marion volunteers for the church and has served on the boards of other schools in the area. 

Marion said, "It has been my privilege and my joy to spend the last eighteen and a half years as director of St. Stephen's Preschool. I have loved my roles as mentor to scores of teachers, sounding board to parents, and teacher to the children who have come to St. Stephen's Preschool. It is time, however, to change my focus and pass along this wonderful school to new leadership." 

 Acting on Marion's expert advice, the rector has called Jan Locher to serve as director beginning with the 2019-20 academic year. Jan, who is employed by Henrico County Public Schools at Maybeury Elementary School, is a former St. Stephen's Preschool teacher who was mentored by Marion. She and her family are also active members of St. Stephen's Church, where Jan has served as lead catechist in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the spiritual formation program St. Stephen's uses with young children. Jan and her husband Mike's own children attended the preschool.

"I feel so honored to follow Marion Chenault in this role," said Jan. "She is a great leader and has had such an influence in our community. I was fortunate enough to work with her for several years and am excited to re-join St. Stephen's Preschool. My passion is learning side-by-side with the children I teach. Staying curious and mindful of the present is so important in our daily learning, and children help remind us of this effortlessly."  

St. Stephen’s Church will honor and thank Marion during a celebration on the evening Wednesday, May 1 (details TBA).

The church and the school’s Parents’ Council will host a meet-and-greet to introduce Jan to current and prospective parents and students on Tuesday, March 19, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. No RSVP is needed. This event will take place in the Lounge, located on the first floor near the May Fair House.

By Popular Demand: 2.5 to 3 year old Purple Classrooms

Once again this year the applications to St. Stephen’s Preschool have exceeded the spaces our traditional classes can accommodate. We have the good fortune to have a classroom that can shift to create a space for a class where the demand is greatest. 

In 2018-2019 that classroom has been used as a Toddler classroom for children who want to come either three or four days.  For 2019-2020 we will be doing the same thing.  If your child is a Toddler, between 2.5 and 3 years old on September 1, 2019 he/she will have options.

We are now offering the choice to all children who currently have a Toddler 3 day contract, as well as those children on our Toddler 3 day wait list, the opportunity to come to St. Stephen’s either three or four days a week.  Let us know your preferences for number of days and for coming to St. Stephen’s as soon as possible. 

We’re excited to be able to accommodate those of you who want to come to St. Stephen’s and were on the wait list, as well as those of you who were prefer a four day Toddler class.  We’re grateful for the enthusiasm to attend St. Stephen’s Preschool.

Summer Camp Save the Date!

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It seems too cold and wet to be thinking of summer, but we’re already making preparations!  All of the children currently in the preschool are invited to attend one of the super fun summer camps our staff are planning.

The dates are June 3 through June 13, Monday through Thursday, from 9:00 until 12:00 noon.  Even the Orange Room (Toddler Morning Out) students will have the opportunity to join their classmates for this eight days of fun. 

Flyers and registration forms will go out before our March 11th spring break, so mark your calendars now for these two weeks of fun and exploration at St. Stephen’s Summer Camp.


Today the whole school, minus our Orange room friends, met in Palmer Hall to kick off our semester of kindness.  We talked about Mr. Rogers’ three rules of success – 1. Kindness 2. Kindness 3.Kindness and read the Kindness Starts with You by Jacquelyn Stagg. 

All the teachers were given kindness coins, which, when they see someone being kind, they will give to that child.  In the assembly Kay had already heard one of the children checking on another who was sad and gave out the first kindness coin.

It’s our hope to fill the kindness jar with multiple coins from each child.  When we can do that, we’ll have a huge bubble party, for the whole school!

Kindness can happen at home as well.  If your child does something particularly nice to you, his/her sibling or friends, please send him/her to school with a small note letting us know what you’ve observed and we’ll be sure to hand out a coin.

It’s been said that if we do something, anything, for 21 days, it becomes a habit.  We’re hoping that kindness will become one of the life-long habits your child learns here at St. Stephen’s Preschool!

Chilly Chili Cook-Off Success!

Thank you to all of the families that joined us for the Annual Chilly Chili Cook-off! We enjoyed some friendly competition and beautiful weather. Congratulations to the first place chili winner, Woody Cheuk, and first place mac and cheese winner, Heath Hyman and everyone who entered the contests.

Thank you to members of the Parents’ Council for providing paper goods and sides, to Ardent Craft Ales for the frosty beverage, to Patrick Willis (Everett’s Dad & Executive Chef at the Jefferson LeMaire) for serving as guest judge, and an extra special thank you to our planning committee, Annie Turner, Kari Hyman, Shariff Ewees, and Tyler Brown.  

A few St. Stephen’s Preschool color changing cups were left behind. If you are missing yours, they have been cleaned and are in the snack room waiting to be claimed.

We hope to see you at our next event, Spirit Night, scheduled for April 11 at Westwood Club. Be on the lookout for details soon.


Julia Ayscue & Mary Douglas Rice
SSP Parents’ Council Co-Presidents


Nature Day in the Red Room

Yesterday the Nature Lady came to the Red Room! She did an interactive skit where the children participated and helped put animals in their hiding places in the forest. She talked about where animals hibernate, keep warm and what they eat in the winter.

Rocky the raccoon and Chucky the squirrel were special animals who came and showed where they spend the winter in a pine tree. The children also enjoyed making special nature bags that they decorated with a nest, pond and foot prints. The bags can be used to collect special nature items.

This culminating lesson was a wonderful way to end learning about hibernation. We are looking forward to snow, winter and Valentine’s over the next few weeks.

Blanche and Eleanor 



See you Tuesday, January 22, with our cold weather gear in tow.

Hibernation Day will be Thursday, the 24th for all classes except Purple 2 day (to be held Tuesday, the 22nd).… Pajamas are dress code for the day!


To all of you who are currently students at St. Stephen’s, be on the lookout for your 2019-2020 contracts.  You are our first priority! 

To those of you who have late spring or summer birthdays, a contract is in the mail for you.  All the evidence points to the fact that it’s better to be among the older children in the class than among the younger.  (!)

Some of you may be awaiting JK or K admissions’ decisions.  We can wait until you hear from these programs and will hold your spot until then, if you’d like us to.  We just need to know your wishes.

When it comes to school planning, September, 2019, is not that far away.

(1)     NPR Update, “Youngest Children in A Class Are Most Likely to get ADHD Diagnosis”, November 28, 2018




Save these dates, June 3 -6 and June 10-13!  St. Stephen’s Preschool offers programs for students in the Orange Rooms (Toddler Morning Out), Purple Rooms (Toddlers), and Red Room and 5-day Classrooms. It will be Monday through Thursday from 9 am until 12 pm. 

The majority of the staff will be familiar and the curriculum will emphasize fun and the outdoors.  More information and sign to come.

We hope you can join us!

Students Help Pack-a-Snack for Peter Paul Development Center

Thanks to the efforts of Kate Batten, Parents’ Council’s head of Outreach, and all the parents who sent food, there was food aplenty to fill 100 bags for the children at Peter Paul Development Center. 

Having read Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud, children from the Purple, Red, Aqua, Blue, Green and Yellow rooms had the opportunity to fill someone else’s bucket and stuff a bag with one each of all the foods parents sent.  Tomorrow, Wednesday, Kate and several parents will take these love stuffed bags, filling 100 cupboards with food for the holidays. ,…v

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Purple 3-Day Class Update

December has been peaceful in the Purple 3-Day Room as we talk about Advent being the season of waiting.  The children know the story of the birth of Jesus and why we celebrate Christmas.  They have enjoyed decorating our tree, “baking” gingerbread cookies, painting Christmas trees, making ornaments and nativity scenes, and of course playing with a stuffed Santa!

We continue to work on social skills, emphasizing kindness and caring for one another by asking a friend, “Are you ok?” when they are hurt or sad.  As I mentioned in most of our parent conferences, another key phrase we teach is, “May I have a turn with that when you are finished?”  Specifying “when you are finished” makes all the difference.  Most times, the child being asked will immediately or quickly hand over the desired toy and is happy to share.

.We wish you the merriest Christmas and a very Happy New Year.  

Thank you for blessing us with the love and care of your children.  
Sarah & Amy

Chilly Chili Cook-off JANUARY 26th


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 JANUARY 26, 11:30am - 1:30pm

Come celebrate winter on the SSP playground with a



Chili cook-off and mac ‘n cheese contest on the SSP playground.

PRIZES for chili & mac contests… PRIZES ANNOUNCED SOON!

Hot dogs, sides, fixings, and non-alcoholic beverages included in ticket price.

Beer and wine (with free refills) with purchase of $15 commemorative cup.

Funds support the St. Stephen’s Preschool Parent’s Council.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


Name: __________________________________________

# of tix (kids under 2 free): _____ x $8 = ______ TOTAL ($32 family max)

I want to purchase commemorative cup(s)! ______ x $15 = ________ TOTAL

I want to enter the chili contest! _______ (# of entries)

I want to enter the mac ‘n cheese contest! _______ (# of entries)

Cash or checks payable to St. Stephen’s Parents’ Council. Online registration available soon!


Our five day children have been busy learning and having fun in our fall-based centers. We've made our own pumpkin faces and Native American yarn designs, painted with puffy paint (which we made), raked fall leaves, and experienced aspects of Native American culture, such as canoes and campfires.

We’ve had multiple sensory experiences - playing with cranberries and beads in water, scooping sand, beans and corn in the sensory table and picking kernels off of Indian corn. 

Some of us have made our own Mo Willem’s cartoon idea boxes and pigeons, or mouse puppets and cookies just like the ones in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Our creations made from leaves were inspired by Lois Elhert's book, Leaf Man.

We’ve peeled carrots and made applesauce for our Thanksgiving feast and made Pilgrim flip books.  And that’s only a taste of the activities the five day children have the past few weeks.

It’s now time for that magical season of the year.  We are transitioning to all things Christmas.  We’ll make reindeer flip books and Christmas gifts.  We‘re decorating three trees in the Blue room, and the children will choose their parts as they reenact the Nativity.

Math, science, literacy, gross motor and fine motor activities are all practiced in play.  It’s a great way to learn!