BY JESSE LOUDENBARGER
It’s February 1957 and The Saturday Evening Post is the most popular magazine in the nation, with each issue eagerly awaited by 2-3 million subscribers. The anticipation in several Bloomington households is especially great, however. There is going to be a story about the innovative “nursery school” that Patti Pizzo and Dottie Saltzman started two years before. How the magazine would treat the subject matter was open for conjecture.
It turned out better than anyone imagined — a four-page spread, seven photographs, and a glowing assessment under the headline “We Started Our Own School.”
The article, written by Miriam and Jerome Ellison, introduced readers to the idea of co-op preschools, focusing on Bloomington’s Children’s Corner Cooperative Nursery School as an example of a do-it-yourself school they described as “almost aggressively unofficial.” That idea is still running strong and is still progressive in 2014.
“The school is run by parents,” explains Tamara Hallett, current director of the preschool located at 600 W. 6th St. in the education wing of Fairview United Methodist Church. “I just keep things coordinated. Parents make the decisions and help in the classroom. They’re the other teacher.”
The “regular” teachers are all experienced and have bachelor’s or master’s degrees.
“The thing about our school that is so special is its play-based curriculum,” explains Lisa Patrick, the vice president of the board. Students learn social skills, such as sharing and conflict resolution; reading, writing, and counting skills are discovered organically through play.
Although its philosophy, funding, and organization are different, Children’s Corner is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. “Every time they come in, they look at us like, ‘What is this?’” says Hallett. “Even to them, the idea of it being parent-run is unusual.”
After almost 60 years, the legacy of the founders continues, and not just in the way that Children’s Corner operates. One prekindergarten student is Ella Pizzo, the daughter of Patti and Tony Pizzo’s son, Seth, and his wife, Rosie. Ella’s brother, Nino, also attended Children’s Corner before moving on to Templeton Elementary School.