Level 5 is highest-level quality rating

Stepping Stones Preschool students Grayson Vande Vegte, Gavin DeWit, Ezra Landegent and Alex Kots create a cup tower.

SIOUX CENTER—Stepping Stones Preschool in Sioux Center received a level 5 in the Quality Rating System this spring.

“QRS is set up to help preschools and day cares improve in the quality of service they provide,” said Stepping Stones director Christy Hulstein. “It is a voluntary process that addresses a variety of areas including professional development, health and safety, environment, family and community partnership, and leadership and administration.”

Level 5 is the highest-level quality rating in Iowa.

“We were all excited and proud of the work we accomplished,” Hulstein said. “It is an honor to be rated a level 5. It shows we are dedicated to quality and improvement.”

Stepping Stones Preschool is a faith-based preschool that is free for 4-year-old children. It’s owned and operated by Dordt University and located in the Preschool Learning Center.

“We provide a stimulating and enriching experience for each child,” Hulstein said. “By using developmentally appropriate activities, we focus on the social/emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, math, social studies and the arts in a caring and loving classroom. By creating purposeful and productive learning experiences, we assist parents and guardians in nurturing their children’s love of learning.”

Hulstein said the process of receiving a level 5 rating is a lot of work but reinforces areas the preschool has been doing well and helps with suggestions for areas it could do better in.

“This means that we will continue to strive to be the best we can be,” Hulstein said.

After the initial application, Iowa State University came to Stepping Stones classrooms and evaluated them using the Early Childhood Environmental Rating System.

The preschool learned a couple of weeks later it received a level 5.

“We have fantastic staff,” Hulstein said. “They love teaching 4-year-olds and are always interested in learning how to improve. It is great to walk into a classroom and see the positive interactions between students, teachers and classmates. It is such a privilege to be part of a community that invests in the youth.”

Hulstein said Sioux Center’s Preschool Learning Center is one more example of the community working together for the good of children.

“Our 4-year-olds have the opportunity to learn in a building designed and built just for them,” she said. “It is a great place for children to learn.”