By Marianne Kligman and Judy O’Gorman Alvarez
LINCROFT – Students, teachers, alumni and families turned out to celebrate the 40th anniversary of A Child’s Place recently.
“A Child’s Place (ACP) is not just a school,” owner Linda Littenberg told the crowd. “It is a community of families with like minds who value their children and want the best start in education possible. It is a community that lasts.”
The accredited school for 3- to 7-year-olds was founded in 1974 by Alba DiBello, an educator in the field of early childhood education.
DiBello believed that children needed a special environment where they could be nurtured and guided by informed and caring adults. From the beginning, according to the school’s website, the school was a place where children could grow and prosper and be encouraged and challenged not only to think and to do, but to feel as well, and do so at their own pace.
DiBello spoke to current and former students and their families at the anniversary celebration. “I think of ACP as renewable energy success,” she said. “When I look at this place, I am truly delighted and what I see is that ACP is alive and well.
“It was very different in 1974,” she said. “My children and first teachers were extraordinary people as were the parents and the children they brought to us,” she said. “To have a full-day program for preschoolers that was not day care was unusual in 1974. It took a leap of faith to bring their children here, but we were committed and positioned for excellence and we were going to make the best school in the world.”
She said that as the school grew, the teachers grew “because they felt the creativity and genius within them because they were allowed to do so and were encouraged to do so.”
Some of the current students are second-generation ACP families.
“I was specifically looking for a school that allowed my children the space to preserve the authenticity of childhood to allow them to learn through play, expression and imagination,” said Gina Miele DeFabio of Holmdel, an alumna and current parent. Two of her children, Jay, 7, and Tatiana, 5, – and nephew Max – attend the school. (Plans are for 2-year-old Gemma to attend in the future.)
“I did my research, even though I remember this being the best place for me,” said DeFabio, who attended ACP in 1978. Her brother attended in 1982. “I found that this was the right place to bring my children… I feel my kids are getting the best education and in so many ways to become the kind of people and citizens I want them to be …There is such a beautiful spirited place…This place has given them a start to do whatever they want.”
Although Littenberg called the day a “bittersweet celebration,” remembering her sister, Barbara Meinberg, who was director of the school until her death earlier this year, she said she and her husband Abe and their son, Matt, an alumnus of the school, were honored to be entrusted with the leadership of the school.
“Today is a celebration of 40 outstanding years finding joy in each child,” she said. “We have a long history of excellent teachers seeing each child as an individual.”