At Grace, our goal is to provide children with a nurturing learning environment in which they will flourish emotionally, socially, intellectually, creatively and physically. The heart of our philosophy is our belief that young children learn best in a natural, unforced way through exposure to a variety of activities and materials that are developmentally appropriate. Our skilled teachers create rich environments and use a variety of strategies to support and encourage children to engage in creative play. We feel that play-based learning is the best way to elicit curiosity, discovery and inspire a lifelong love of learning.
Our curriculum blends the best of several educational philosophies, combining a focus on topics or Big Ideas for children to explore and investigate along with an emergent approach where teachers carefully observe and support children's play themes. In other words our curriculum responds to children’s needs, growth and interests. This way of tailoring what happens in our classrooms to the children is the foundation of our joyful learning community. The activities in our classrooms are open-ended and our materials are flexible, which is a natural way to individualize our curriculum. Our multipurpose materials can be explored at many different levels. Through this process, children naturally build higher-level thinking skills as well as acquire a rich foundation of knowledge about the world.
To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.
We like to describe Grace as eclectic; which means that we incorporate some of the best elements of various early childhood philosophies into our curriculum. Being eclectic is also a reflection of the diverse backgrounds and interests of the teachers. We strive to reflect our teaching philosophy in the way we live and work together. We create a sense of community through sharing and collaborating. Through exploration of our neighborhood and its resources, children and families develop a sense of belonging and community pride. We believe that Grace offers something special to young children and their families. Come visit us and see for yourself…Come grow with Grace...a Joyful Learning Community!
Grace Neighborhood Nursery School (GNNS) was established in 1961 with a $50 gift, a few borrowed bicycles, 10 families and a handful of volunteer teachers.
We were founded by members of Grace Trinity Community Church as a service to the community. We were housed in the education wing of the Grace-Trinity Community Church (GTCC) for 60 years until we moved to the First Universalist Church in 2021.
It was part of GTCC’s mission at that time to serve the children and families in our community by providing quality early childhood programming to everyone. The original intent was to seek out children who were deemed to be “at-risk” and provide accessible high-quality, non-sectarian early children education. To this day we continue that intention of providing quality early childhood education to all by offering scholarship assistance to up to 20% of our families.
In 2009 GNNS became an independent 501c3, non-profit charitable organization. Click here for more information about our Scholarship Program.
Barb Murphy, Director
Joined GNNS in 2015 after 30 years as an Early Childhood Specialist at the University ofMinnesota
BS and MS in Child Development from Northern Illinois University
Shannon Sullivan, Teacher
Joined GNNS in 2013
BA in Liberal Studies/Early Childhood from Viterbo College; Certified Montessori Teacher; Certified Music Together Teacher
Monta Hayner, Teacher
Joined GNNS in 1998
BA in Psychology from Reed College; Pre-K licensure program at the University of Minnesota
Claire Thometz, Teacher
Joined GNNS in 1998
BA in Political Science and International Relations from Denison University; Diplome Annuel in French Language, Civilization & Culture, University of Paris; Many graduate classes and continuing education in Early Childhood Education
Terra Mayorga, Teacher
Joined GNNS in 2014
ASD in Early Childhood Development & American Sign Language from St. Paul College; BS in Early Childhood from Concordia University
Ross Thompson, Teacher
Joined GNNS in 2020
BS in Early Childhood Education Foundations from the U of MN; MEd. In Early Childhood Education from the University of Minnesota with Early Childhood Teaching Licensure
Julia Klatt Singer, Teacher /Poet-in-Residence
Joined GNNS in 2008
BA in Sociology & Social Studies Education from St. Olaf College; MA in Liberal Studies from Hamline University
Kari Schneyer, Teacher
Joined GNNS in 2022
BS in Elementary Education from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Michelle Pryce, Teacher
Joined GNNS in 2021
BS in Human Relations from the University of Minnesota
Master of Public Health from the University of Minnesota
Sara Smith, Teacher
Joined GNNS in 2022
BS in Early Childhood Education from Concordia University – St. Paul
Tom Boyle, Teacher
Joined GNNS in 2023
BA in English, Minor in Spanish from the University of Minnesota; MA in Semiotics & Culture Studies from the University of Tartu, Estonia; MS in Early Childhood Education from the Erikson Institute, Chicago