The year 2020 marks a milestone anniversary for a small yet formidable Armenian preschool in Glendale, California, that has shaped the formative years of more than 5,000 young Armenian-Americans. St. Mary’s Richard Tufenkian Preschool and Kindergarten, formerly named St. Mary’s School, was founded in 1975 by a handful of visionary community members who had the foresight that a nurturing environment grounded in the Armenian tradition of academic and cultural excellence, and in line with contemporary American school standards, would be of immeasurable value to generations of young Armenians. What started with eight students and the ardent support of enterprising community members, as well as the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, is now a thriving home to nearly 200 preschool and kindergarten students.
By the end of its inaugural year, the school grew impressively in size and established strong roots in a burgeoning community of new immigrants from around the world. Alongside physical expansion, the school also began making forays into what would be its hallmark of success – a child-centered curriculum that fosters cognitive, social, and emotional development alongside a bilingual language acquisition program, all of which highlight, promote and preserve Armenian language, history and culture while embracing western education.
Throughout the course of four decades, with ongoing professional development of staff and administration, the school has always been on the cutting edge of early childhood education, adopting principles and theories from Piaget, Erikson and Vygotsky, and incorporating Reggio Emilia and Outdoor Classroom philosophies. Its curriculum continues to evolve based on current, evidence-based research findings regarding the positive effects of an emergent program that cultivates children’s curiosity, promotes inquiry, encourages hands-on learning, and nurtures a sense of competence and self-worth through child-centered and teacher-directed activities that address the needs of the whole child.
At St. Mary’s Richard Tufenkian Preschool and Kindergarten, teachers and students are equal participants in an effective and joyful educational experience. Students are given the tools to learn at their own pace, at each developmental stage, and through their own initiated activities and exploration. They become active participants in their learning, while teachers facilitate their knowledge in science, math, early-literacy, art, music, drama, and Armenian language, history and culture.
From its initial years to this day, the school has enjoyed the steadfast support of its parent support committee, countless dedicated community members, and the Western Prelacy. Of course, its biggest champions have been Mr. and Mrs. Ralph and Savey Tufenkian who, in 1990, became the school’s only and most significant benefactors. Their unmatched donation, to honor the memory of their son Richard, allowed the school to further grow in size and blossom academically. Over the years, the Tufenkian family has consistently made great financial contributions to the school allowing it to acquire additional properties for expansion and to meet its exponentially growing financial needs. The Tufenkians’ continued contributions have provided the school the opportunity to cultivate and enrich the academic careers of generations of young Armenians.
Today, while celebrating its 45th anniversary, the school continues its commitment to improvement by embarking on a modernization and expansion project to create a campus that better reflects its philosophy, and facilitates the successful execution of its curriculum. The expanded and enhanced campus will best make use of its valuable open space and create venues for science exploration, art imagination, fun play, and activities that ignite student curiosity. With the generous patronage of its alumni, parent support committee, and community, St. Mary’s Richard Tufenkian Preschool and Kindergarten pledges to continue to positively impact not only the lives of its many young pupils, but also the community at large.
A gala celebration to mark the 45th anniversary of St. Mary’s Richard Tufenkian Preschool and Kindergarten, kicking off the school modernization and expansion project, will take place on February 8, 2020, at the California Science Center, in Los Angeles, California. Individuals interested in supporting the school, to build together and nurture future generations, contact the school by emailing schoolmodernization@TufenkianPreschool.com.