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Stepping Stones helps youngsters learn
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Photo by Jim Misunas Great Bend Tribune Stepping Stones youngsters Will, Landon, Christian and Olivia enjoy hearing a Dr. Seuss story.

By Jim Misunas

LARNED — Two educators seeking to maximize their special education degrees are providing a positive learning environment for youngsters.
Co-owners Lana Amspacker and Wilena Peterson said they wanted to offer Larned families another educational option by starting Stepping Stones Learning Center LLC. Amspacker owns a master’s degree in early childhood special education. Peterson has master’s degrees in elementary education and special education.
Assistant teacher Janae Finger has an associate degree in child care guidance. Volunteer Lois Price also helps.  
Stepping Stones operates morning and afternoon sessions for youngsters from ages 3 to 5 four days a week and a one-hour afternoon session two days a week for youngsters between 2 and 3 years old.
“With a combined 60 years of teaching experience, we look forward to the opportunity of working with children and their families in an independent program,” Amspacker said. “We wanted families to have choices for their children. We especially enjoy working with the at-risk students.”
 Amspacker said Stepping Stones emphasizes learning exercises and teaches the youngsters how to cooperate with others. Time is spent with the group learning together while some time is spent for a particular skill with a specific age group.
“Nothing compares to seeing the light in their eyes when they do something on their own,” Amspacker said. “Watching the kids grow, learn and gain confidence is rewarding. It’s fun to hearing the family members talk about the learning growth in their children.”
A recent exercise with a Dr. Seuss theme tied specific skills into day-long activities.
Stepping Stones, 1224 Corse, rents the fellowship hall from the First Southern Baptist Church, under the direction of Pastor Mark Slattery.
“Everyone has been especially supportive from the children’s groups to the adult groups,” Amspacker said. 
A six-month process is required to earn certification as a preschool. The licensing is performed through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment with local, state and regional supervision. Surveyors visited Stepping Stones before it opened to verify all the licensing requirements would be followed.
“They are concerned with children’s safety and the educational process,” Amspacker said. “The regulations and requirements make for a lengthy inspection process.”
Amspacker said there is space for 23 youngsters in each class session. Call (620) 804-2901 for application information.