Business of the Week: Little Learners of Westchester

Photo caption: Educational Director and co-owner Christina Poggioreale of Yorktown, right, and co-owner and director Vanessa Raffaele of Montrose, opened the Little Learners of Westchester pre-school in Cortlandt on March 1.

Photo caption: Educational Director and co-owner Christina Poggioreale of Yorktown, right, and co-owner and director Vanessa Raffaele of Montrose, opened the Little Learners of Westchester pre-school in Cortlandt on March 1.

There is a new school for little learners to play, learn and grow together in Cortlandt.

The Little Learners of Westchester pre-school for children between the ages of two and five opened on March 1. The school offers both half-day and full-day programs.

Children are not there just to play at Little Learners. The school provides lessons in several subjects, including English as a Second Language, math, science, computers, social studies and Spanish.

“We do play and laugh and have fun too, but we do want to teach them. At that age you are starting to develop your alphabets, your numbers. You can do simplified science.” Little Learners Educational Director and co-owner Christina Poggioreale of Yorktown said last week as she was preparing her school to open. “We simplify them for their age group to make it fun. The importance of pre-school is that is their first impression of what school is.”

There is now a greater importance placed on academics in pre-school, Poggioreale said. “Going into school, they’re required to do a lot more,” she said. “If you walk into a kindergarten classroom nowadays and the norm is those kids are already reading.”

Parents of pre-school aged children often do not have the time to help with reading and other academic areas, Poggioreale said.

“They need their phonics skills and they need their sight words before they get into kindergarten,” said Montrose resident Vanessa Raffaele, co-owner and student relations director of Little Learners.

Poggioreale said it is important that children learn the basics in pre-school. “Children at the age of two-and-a-half-years-old don’t know how to pick up a pencil,” she said. “We’re also teaching them all the basics, getting them ready.”

The importance of protecting the environment will be stressed at Little Learners. “We’re going to teach them that the world is bigger than Cortlandt Manor,” Raffaele said. “They’re going to learn about different countries in the world every month. They’re going to learn about community helpers. They’re also going to learn about how to preserve things in the environment, about recycling, about planting gardens.”

Though the school has been open only a few days, children have already been signed up at Little Learners. Children from such local communities as Yorktown, PutnamValley, and Garrison are taking classes.

The co-owners of Little Learners are veteran educators. Raffaele has been a pre-school teacher for the past 25 years in the Lakeland and Peekskill districts and Poggioreale for six-and-one-half-years was an elementary level substitute teacher in the YorktownSchool District. Both co-owners will teach at their new school.

Little Learners is planning in the future to apply to provide a full-day kindergarten program for the YorktownSchool District.

Little Learners is not the first business owned by Raffaele. Since 1999, she has co-owned the On My Toes Dance Academy, which like Little Learners, is located in the ParksideCornerShopping Center.

Little Learners of Westchester is located in the Parkside Corner Shopping Center, 3565 Crompond Rd., Cortlandt. For more information, visit its Web site at http://littlelearnersofwestchester.com.

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