About Us

Who We Are

The Catonsville Cooperative Preschool offers programs for children who are two, three, and four years old at the start of the school year. We are a family participation school. In the 2’s class, the teacher leads the class and the parent or caregiver attends with the child. Both our 3’s program and 4’s (Prekindergarten) program are cooperative classrooms, meaning a teacher leads these classes and parents assist in the classroom on a rotating basis.

We have been teaching children through play for 75 years, which means we have generations of families returning to the Catonsville Cooperative Preschool to ensure that their children are able to have the same fantastic childhood Co-op experience.

The Co-op Experience

A cooperative school is an excellent bridge between the home and the school experience. A Co-op is a valuable opportunity for parents and children to learn to grow together and apart from each other. By working in a classroom, parents are able to learn about the play-based approach from the teacher at the same time that their children are learning through play. Parents also learn from each other as they collaborate with other parent volunteers, and their children receive care from other trusted adults in the community. In this way, relationships within the community grow stronger, and each participant’s understanding of the program increases.  

An early childhood spent at a cooperative school provides a unique opportunity for the families to be a part of the children’s education and to witness their children discovering the joy of learning, a process that is distinctly different in a group setting than it is in the home. As their children go off to Kindergarten and the school experiences become the shared domain of the teacher and the child, parents will have far fewer opportunities for parent involvement during a typical school day.  Our Co-op provides families with a way to relish as many magical childhood moments as possible. 

The Curriculum

Our curriculum is not an academic one; however, academic topics are introduced in an age-appropriate, playful, and authentic way. Structured to provide freedom within limits, the curriculum recognizes choice and play as fundamental parts of learning. The learning spaces are set up in an intentional, child-centered way, because we believe school should provide an environment which is so rich and varied that any choice on the child's part is valuable. We believe the experience in preschool must be valid for young children as they are, and not just as preparation for later schooling. We follow the educational standards outlined in the Maryland Early Learning Standards. Read more about our individual programs here.

The Community

Building the community is integral to the Co-op philosophy. In addition to the daily activities in the classroom, there are many opportunities for additional involvement with both your child and other co-op families. Special school events include Donuts with Dad, Grandparent's Day, and Mother's Day Tea. Playdates in the summer and year-round let children play together outside of school and also let parents get to know each other. Several events are planned throughout the year for just the parents as well, such as cafe meet-ups and book clubs.

Our Values

At the Co-op, we value:

  1. Community and collaboration. We believe that by working together as a community, we can lay the foundation for a brighter future, one child at a time. By sharing expertise, knowledge, and resources, the Co-op both fosters a sense of belonging and creates a strong community support network. Members of our Co-op often form lifelong relationships with other families. 
  2. Parental involvement. Parents play an active role in the Co-op. Besides being a part of the classroom, families in the Co-op are responsible for everything from administration to planning events to maintaining the classrooms. As members of the Co-op, parents are directly involved in decisions that shape the school. 
  3. Child-Centered Learning. We embrace a child-centered approach that values and respects the autonomy of each child. The school emphasizes self-directed exploration, play, and freedom of choice, allowing children to construct their knowledge and – more importantly –  develop a lifelong love of learning. 
  4. Inclusion and Diversity. We celebrate and embrace diversity in all its forms. We create an inclusive environment that fosters respect, fairness, empathy, and appreciation for others, helping children develop a strong sense of self and a deep understanding and acceptance of the world around them.

Teacher Bios

Heather Lemkelde

Heather Lemkelde is the Director as well as the teacher for the 3’s and Prekindergarten programs at the Catonsville Cooperative Preschool. She has lived and worked in Maryland and Hawaii and now lives in Catonsville. With over ten years experience as an Early Childhood teacher, she brings a wealth of knowledge and a genuine love for children to her role at the Co-op. A cornerstone of her philosophy is that the child is the curriculum. Children bring their own ideas, questions, and experiences, and, as a teacher, Heather creates a flexible, child-centered environment that respects and values each child. She believes that every child is a unique individual with their own strengths, interests, and ways of learning, and that, in her words, ”everyone is working on something.” She loves working with families to create a nurturing and inclusive environment that reflects, in the words of John Egan, the beauty of unity in diversity. 

Jen Hill    

Jen Hill is the teacher for the 2-year-old program at the Catonsville Cooperative Preschool. She is a Maryland native and has lived in Catonsville since 2006. Jen joined the Co-op as a parent in 2013. All three of her children thrived in the 2’s, 3’s, and Pre-k programs. She has enjoyed working with children over the years in various capacities, and is thrilled to have returned to the Co-op community in a new role. Jen loves the school philosophy of providing a nurturing environment for children to learn through play; she especially enjoys creating engaging projects. Jen shares in parents' joy in seeing the children grow and progress throughout the year as they discover and learn new things. She is dedicated to making this experience for you and your family something you will remember and treasure for many years to come. 

Our History

1937 Mrs. Ellen Price begins a cooperative kindergarten in her home on Summit Avenue (and later on Rosewood Avenue) to help meet the needs of her bright young son Bill.
1939 A group of Catonsville parents offers to fund a non-profit cooperative kindergarten if the Baltimore County School system will provide housing in a school facility. Their petition is denied.
1944 The Catonsville Cooperative Kindergarten is established and 38 students attend in two sessions at the Baptist Church on Ingleside Avenue.
1945 The Catonsville Kindergarten Association is incorporated. Mothers act as assistants to the classes' teachers. Fathers build furniture for the classrooms.
1946 The kindergarten moves to larger quarters in the Catonsville United Methodist Church (the Coop's current location).
1968 A vote by the membership to close the school (due to the wide availability of public kindergartens) is amended to instead convert the kindergarten to a nursery school (ages 3-5) and reincorporate as Catonsville Nursery Association, Inc.
1988 Kindergarten is once again added in afternoon sessions to the program through the Catonsville Nursery Association. Inc.
1992 Due to low enrollment, kindergarten sessions are again closed. The nursery school continues to flourish.
2003 Catonsville Nursery Association, Inc. becomes Catonsville Cooperative Preschool, Inc. Five classes for two-, three-, and four-year-olds are offered.

Upcoming Events

There are no upcoming events at this time