About Us

Our Philosophy

At Overlee, we believe that play is the foundation for lifelong learning and that parent-participation is the key to building community.

A PLAY-BASED APPROACH

Research shows that for preschool-aged children, the best outcomes occur when learning is embedded in play.  Overlee’s curriculum is based on three research-based principles:

  • Children need both unstructured free play and playful learning under the gentle guidance of adults to best prepare them for entrance into kindergarten.
  • Academic and social development are so inextricably intertwined that the former must not exceed the latter.
  • Learning takes place best when children are engaged and enjoying themselves.
“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.” O. Fred Donaldson

Ph.D., Author 'Original Play'

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers

Why Play Matters

You’ve seen the term PLAY BASED SCHOOL! But what does that mean, exactly? And more importantly, why is it important for your child’s development and education? Well, let us help break down all the learning that’s going on right before your eyes…

In a play-based program such as ours, you won’t see teachers giving rote instruction on concepts such as letters, numbers, shapes, or colors. Instead, you will see children sorting nature bits or blocks (patterning and math!), pouring water or sand through tubes at the sensory table (science!), painting at the easel (colors and shapes!) just to name a few of the fun, play-centric activities we enjoy in each class. Supported by teachers and co-oper’s who are willing to sit down with them as they play, listen to their ideas, and have conversations with them, children are able to extend their comprehension of how the world works in a concrete and truly enjoyable way.

Another important aspect of education in the early years is literacy development. The children are read to regularly and are encouraged to engage with and explore stories and storytelling. Through play and with the support of teachers, children can explore letter recognition, letter sounds, symbolic thinking, rhymes and other early literacy skills, which build a foundation for eventually becoming enthusiastic readers and writers.

Finally, we must remember that school (and life) readiness skills are not merely a matter of knowing letters and numbers. It is equally important – perhaps even more so – that children have positive social and emotional experiences and develop strong higher-order cognitive skills. Each day, our teachers focus on helping children learn how to function well as a member of a group, make friends, and acclimate to the structures and routines of school. Opportunities for children to develop executive function and critical thinking skills – such as articulating and exchanging ideas, listening to other points of view, reconciling differing opinions, inventing novel ways of solving problems, and planning, strategizing, and organizing – are imbedded in every aspect of our program. These skills emerge naturally in preschool children through play, especially when they are given the time and space to experiment and explore.

As you can see, there are so many reasons why a play-based early childhood education is important in supporting the development of your whole child so that they are ready for their next step after preschool. At our core, calling ourselves “play-based” reflects our philosophy that children learn best through relevant, meaningful and concrete experiences. Each year, we are proud to send our “play-based”-educated oldest Birds off to elementary school, knowing that they have great motivation to learn, highly developed critical thinking and social skills, and a strong sense of confidence, self-reliance, and emotional well-being.

History

In 1945, a group of parents in the area of Arlington called Overlee Knolls founded Overlee Preschool Cooperative Association, making it one of the oldest preschools in Arlington. They wanted to provide an enriching preschool experience for their children at a reasonable cost. The Association hired professional teachers, and mothers served as assistants in the classroom. Parents managed the administration and maintenance of the school. In 1966, the school incorporated and became Overlee Preschool Association, Incorporated. Overlee has been located at the Church of the Covenant for more than 20 years. Overlee is a non-profit and non-sectarian. Overlee Preschool’s fine reputation today is testimony to the contributions of time, talents, and ideas by parents and teachers over many productive years.

What Makes Overlee Special

Overlee is a small, intimate school where parental involvement is the norm. Overlee is a family-centered, cohesive community with many relationships extending well beyond Overlee. Our emphasis is on play and teaching children to respect themselves and others. Children are perceived as independent and capable and are nurtured and appreciated for who they are. Our focus is on “Process,” not “Product.” The teachers have their plans for the day; however, we also follow the children and adapt the plan accordingly so that the children can explore and engage in developmentally appropriate experiences and experiments as they unfold! We believe Overlee provides a wonderful beginning to a child’s education that encourages the development of imagination through play and exploration.

“When children pretend, they’re using their imaginations to move beyond the bounds of reality. A stick can be a magic wand. A sock can be a puppet. A small child can be a superhero.” Fred Rogers

Our Teachers

Louisa Stetekluh

Louisa Stetekluh

Yellowbird and Bluebird Teacher

Louisa grew up in Falls Church, attended J.E.B. Stuart High School and earned a B.A. degree in Psychology from George Mason University. She is entering her 20th year as Overlee’s Yellowbird teacher and 15th year with the Bluebirds.

Before coming to Overlee, she taught for six years at Rock Spring Cooperative Preschool after her children went on to elementary school. Louisa was also a member of Rock Spring Cooperative Preschool as her three children went through the school. As a cooperative member she held board positions as fundraising chair, membership coordinator and as a 2nd Vice President. Louisa has long had a strong connection with and dedication to her students. For two decades she has also worked at the Providence Recreation Center on the weekends as an instructor in movement, child development and preschool art classes for children from infancy to four years old.  Louisa is a member of the National Association for the Education for Young Children (NAEYC).

Mary McIntyre

Mary McIntyre

Director / Redbird Teacher

Mary is excited to be joining the Overlee family as the new director and Redbird teacher for the 2019-2020 school year. She is a recently retired public school teacher who is committed to working collaboratively with all as director as well as providing a high quality learning environment for the Redbirds. Mary holds a Master’s in elementary education from Marymount University and is licensed by the state of Virginia to teach grades Pre-K to 8th grade. Mary comes to us from Fairfax County Public Schools, where she spent 24 years teaching grades Pre-K to 4. During the last four years of her career, Mary was a Pre-K teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools where she received valuable professional development and coaching in early childhood best practices. 

Mary describes her teaching philosophy as one that creates a positive, caring classroom community that builds social-emotional skills through a play-based approach. Her dedication and passion resulted in her Pre-K classroom being chosen as a Virginia showcase preschool classroom in 2018. With this distinction, Mary’s classroom was used as a model for teachers, administrators, and superintendents from all over the state to visit, observe, and adopt new practices for their schools.

Although she is new to the co-operative environment, Mary is excited to get to know and work closely with all Overlee families. She is especially looking forward to building relationship-based partnerships with every family at Overlee.

Mary and her husband, Jim, have been Alexandria residents since 1987. Jim is a news analyst for Bulletin Intelligence. Their daughter, Clare, lives in McLean with her husband and their three children. Clare is Assistant Director of Development for the Shakespeare Theater Company.