Retired teachers join forces to prepare youngsters for kindergarten


What’s the dream job for two retired elementary school teachers? If you guessed anything that involves peace and quiet, you guessed wrong. It turns out the dream job, at least for Peggy Hunnicutt MAEd ’83 and Darlene Tribby MAEd ’83, means going back into the classroom with small children.

The two veteran elementary schoolteachers plan to spend their retirement launching a preschool class for boys and girls who need a little extra time to get ready for kindergarten. “We always said how fun it would be after we finished teaching to have a small school and see if we could get little kids ready,” Hunnicutt said. Their chance to do just that came after Hunnicutt took over in August as director of Trinity Preschool at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Hendersonville. The small preschool offers programs for children from 18 months to 5 years old.

Hunnicutt, who retired from teaching in 2003, connected with Tribby, who recently retired from Hendersonville Elementary School, and the two convinced the preschool’s board to create a transitional kindergarten class. Tribby will teach the half-day class, which is designed for children who miss the Aug. 31 cutoff date for kindergarten but will be 5 years old by Dec. 31. It also will be open to kids who would benefit from an extra year of preschool. “This just gives kids who don’t make the cutoff a place where they can grow and learn, so they don’t have to go to day care,” Tribby said. “It is not going to be day care. I’m going to actually teach.”

The class will emphasize number and letter concepts, reading and writing skills, and hands-on activities. Daily phonics lessons should also help children learn to read by the time they reach kindergarten. A small class size of about 12 students will allow Tribby to spend more time working individually with each child.

Tribby and Hunnicutt taught kindergarten and first grade for 30 years at Bruce Drysdale and Hendersonville Elementary schools. The two became great friends over the years and worked together to earn their master’s degrees in early childhood education from Western Carolina University. They designed a preschool while working toward their degrees and talked often about what they would do if they could put their plans into action.

They both wanted to do more to prepare children for school because kindergarten today is as demanding for students as first grade was years ago, Hunnicutt said. “Teachers see so many kids come to kindergarten not prepared,” she said. “Developmentally, they are just not ready to do what they have to do so quickly. Some children need more time.”

Darlene Tribby MAEd ’83 (above right, working with student Kaylee Foushee on the days of the week) will teach Trinity Preschool’s transitional kindergarten class in the fall. Peggy Hunnicutt MAEd ’83 (left, reading with a youngster) is director of Trinity Preschool in Hendersonville.Photos by Mike Dirks, courtesy of the Hendersonville Times-News

Reprinted in edited format with permission of the Hendersonville Times-News.