The Beary Patch Preschool in Spring Grove was recently honored with a four-star award.

The awarding organization was Parent Aware, an organization that awards one to four-star ratings based on the quality of a childcare and early education program, preschool teacher Bethany Bergsgaard explained.

With the new rating, the preschool can continue to offer income-based scholarships for families, but now the families won’t have to cover the difference.

“Beary Patch has always given out scholarships for families,” Bergsgaard said. “We take great pride in that.”

Before the award rating, the school would raise funds for scholarships and award them to families. If the funds available weren’t enough to cover tuition, families had to make up the difference.

At Parent Aware, their three- and four-star ratings can offer income-based scholarships to families, which are usually higher than childcare assistance, Bergsgaard said.

These scholarships are also good until children go to kindergarten, she added.

“I signed up for the program and aimed for a four-star rating,” Bergsgaard explained.

A coach from the Parent Aware organization came to Spring Grove and helped her through different steps of the process.

Most of it was filling out paperwork and submitting documentation of day-to-day lesson plans, curriculum and other materials she was already implementing at the school.

“I had about four inches of paperwork to submit by the time it was ready,” Bergsgaard said. “It’s a pretty involved program.”

She also took different classes in child development, curriculum, developmental disabilities and more.

Bergsgaard has an Elementary Education degree with an emphasis in math from St. Mary’s University in Winona.

After submitting the paperwork, Bergsgaard was observed by a professional from the University of Minnesota for two hours in her classroom.

A four-star award requires the preschool to have curriculum to prepare preschoolers for kindergarten and to have research-based principles that prepares them for life as a kindergartener and elementary student, Bergsgaard said.

The rating is good for two years before Bergsgaard would have to re-submit paperwork to have the preschool requalified.

The preschool teaches about 23 students, but class size varies from year to year, Bergsgaard noted.

Registration for the 2017-2018 year will begin in May. Contact Bergsgaard at the school for more information at 507-498-5100.

Bergsgaard also serves as the Spring Grove School District’s Early Childhood Family Education teacher and coordinator.

To learn more about Parent Aware, visit its website at parentaware.org or call 1-888-291-9811.

More about the preschool

The preschool was established in 1987 and was licensed in 1988. It is located in the lower level of the Trinity Center, which is owned by Trinity Lutheran Church.

The preschool is not funded by the church, but solely through tuition, donations and fundraisers.

The church is responsible for the light, heat, water and custodial services of the preschool as well as building upkeep and maintenance.

The preschool is able to use the space without paying rent and is responsible for “policy-making decisions, such as the direction of education programming and personal hiring.”

The church also provides general liability insurance for the staff and children.