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Higher Learning Academy Prepares Children for Bright Future - and Kindergarten

Pre-school Promotes Manners, Respect and Love for God

Shapes, colors, math and words are important, but Betty Bent says so are manners and respect.

The director of Higher Learning Academy in Lake Wales says educators at her school recognize they play a vital role in shaping the future of youth.

"We want our kids to enter the school system with respect for others and with the knowledge that there are consequences for your actions so make the best choices for each situation you may find yourself in," Bent said.

The faith-based preschool at 144 E. Orange Avenue now has 33 children in its program. Early Learning Coalition Classroom Observer Ileana Felipe visited the preschool this week to assess the program quality and left extremely impressed.

"It's an excellent school. It's a natural environment," Felipe said. "Everything flowed naturally. For me it was incredible."

It was jungle theme week at the academy, so Felipe observed Bent reading the book "Why Mosquitoes Buzz in Peoples Ears" to the 3- and 4-year-olds. But Bent did far more than read – she made the book come alive not only for the children, but also for Felipe, who said "I enjoyed it – I was like a student."

Felipe said during her observation she is looking for how the teachers interact with the children, how they handle behavior, promote language development and push the children to think and ask questions.

"There are many dimensions I have to observe," Felipe said, noting she is confident that children completing the academy are ready to start kindergarten.

Bent obviously loves her work and sees her position as a special calling.

"We start learning here at the tender age of 1 years old, exposing the young brains to absorb knowledge while the synapses of the brains are just soaking up everything that is being taught to them," Bent said, noting the preschool prides itself in providing "tender loving care, giving them the love and kindness they would receive at home."

Bent said she expects her staff to show the children good morals and standards, teaching them to use self-control at an early age.

"What our community lost was good old fashion manners, teaching our children to respect themselves as well as others, like saying 'yes ma'am, yes sir, excuse me and thank you.' These are values that we teach our children giving them what they need to go out into the world with good manners," Bent said.

"But one of the main things that Higher Learning teaches is the love of God. That needs to be shared at a young age, because without the love of God how do we expect to love each other."

Higher Learning Academy offers not only a diverse curriculum, Bent said, but teaches race history to help "every child be proud of who they are at a very young age."


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