BY LINDSAY MCCOY

Times Bulletin News Writer

lmccoy@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - Calvary Preschool has been serving the Van Wert community and its children for over 45 years. Located at Calvary Evangelical Church on Van Wert-Decatur Rd., the preschool's goal is to introduce the young boys and girls to a variety of learning experiences to prepare them for the next step in their education. Now in 2013, one of its original teachers is retiring from the school and teaching profession.
Judy Fox was originally hired as a nursery school director and the church's Christian education director in 1966 at the Calvary E.U.B. Church located at the corner of Maple and Jefferson Streets. When the doors to the facility opened the fall of that year, Fox aided teacher Janet McCracken with the school's 14 students. This was the first preschool to open in Van Wert County.

Fox, a 1962 graduate of Van Wert High School, continued on to graduate from Bluffton College with a degree in Christian education, and her first job was at her church. She worked with the nursery school children in the morning and did secretarial work.

"I love being around the kids," said Fox. "I love getting hugs from them and giving hugs. I have a super staff to work with. This has been the best year ever, so I am happy to be ending up on a good note."

Fox said she wishes she and the teachers would have kept notes over the years about all the funny things that were said. She remembers laughing so hard and swearing never to forget, but over the years they forgot. Now, Fox instructs her teachers to keep a notebook and write down these memories so that they may live on in future years.

While some things have been forgotten, Fox remembers that first year in 1966 being the most memorable as it was a first time experience to all involved. Bible stories were presented on old flannelgraphs and children sang tunes along with the piano.

There was also a wood center containing wood scraps, hammers, nails, and a saw, for students to gain work working and hands-on skills. Fox is now unsure how they got by with this, as young children working with these tools in a school setting today would be highly frowned upon.

"It is what you did back then," remembered Fox. "We had some smashed thumbs but nothing major. It was a fun time, it really was."

Fox followed the school when it relocated to its current spot on Van Wert-Decatur Rd. When the preschool first moved to this site, the preschool was not very big, but as improvements were made the school attendance grew to over 200 students. Now, the preschool runs with 150 children each year.

Fox spent three years with the preschool before she left the job to start her own family. She married Terry Fox and together they had two children, Todd and Tara, and now two grandsons. She moved to Rockford for 30 years to raise her family and has spent the last ten years of her life back in Van Wert.

Fox worked as a substitute teacher from 1972-1992 for various schools including Van Wert Local Schools. From 1973-1990, she taught the Migrant Program at Parkway Schools. In 1991, Fox moved away from education and worked at JC Penney for 15 years, but her first job pulled her back and she continued her work with Calvary Preschool.

"My goal to show Christ's love to the children and their parents is a priority of mine," said Fox. "Calvary is a Christian preschool, and this is part of our background."

Beyond helping the children to grow spiritually, Fox works as the director of the preschool. Her responsibilities vary by day from potty patrol, to talking with parents, furnishing snacks, and acting as principal to correct children when they are having behavioral problems within the classroom. Fox's time within the classroom and school as she is set to retire this year.

"I am going to sleep in," joked Fox. "We are getting older, so if we are going to do anything we better do it now. My husband and I plan to travel and would first like to travel to California to visit our nieces that we haven't seen in a long time."

Fox admits she is going to miss the kids and her staff dearly following her retirement. She said she has enjoyed her job within the education field and the preschool and expects to miss everything she has come to know so well after all these years.