Patrick Tebaldi was three years old when he started at St. Anthony of Padua Preschool. Today, his own 3-year-old daughter is learning her ABCs and how to make the sign of the cross within the same walls where he learned the same lessons.
Tebaldi was a member of the first preschool class that opened at St. Anthony’s. On Sunday, the school will celebrate its 20th anniversary. That two-decade milestone will be observed during the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday in the church.
“Some of my students who are older now are going to be the lectors and altar servers” during the service, said Preschool Director Claudette Alves.
Following the church service, there will be refreshments served during the open house held in the preschool classroom in the back of St. Anthony’s School. Alves said there will be a bulletin board showing pictures of all the children’s classes from 1993 to the present.
“We even have a video of the very first class,” she said. “Hopefully, some of those students who are grown up now – they are now 23 if they were three years old, and if they were four, they are 24 – will come and visit. We’d love to see them.”
Alves is also part of the preschool’s history. She can be considered as the founding director of the school given the fact she has been in that position since 1993 when the program was inaugurated.
At that time, Dennis Tarricco who was then principal of St. Anthony School, started thinking of opening a preschool at the beginning of the year. After the school obtained a license from the state for the preschool, and following the promising result of a survey distributed to families in the parish which indicated that there was “a real interest” in having such a class offered, Alves was tapped by Tarricco to be the program director.
The principal had been aware of Alves’ work experience background. Before she got married and had children, Alves was a Head Start teacher for the Modesto city schools.
Today, St. Anthony’s Preschool has four classes with a total enrollment of 65 children. The pre-kindergarten classes are held Mondays, Wednesday and Friday. Preschool classes are held Tuesday and Friday from 8 to 11 a.m. in the morning and from noon to 3 in the afternoon.
“One of the biggest reasons” St. Anthony opened a preschool is to have “a feeder” program for the K-8 parochial school.
“Many times, families will come to our preschool and say, ‘we’re happy with the school and with them (their children) being here. So they can start here at (age) 3 and go allthe way to eighth grade and receive a Catholic education all the way,” Alves explained.
And while there are other churches in Manteca that offer similar preschool programs – Lions and Lambs at Calvary Community, and St. Paul’s United Methodist’s Preschool – St. Anthony’s is the only one that is part of a K-8 school.
Alves said they are starting to see the children of former preschool students following their parents’ footsteps. Tebaldi was the first one to have a child enrolled at the preschool where he started his schooling.
Not only did Tebaldi start his education in the preschool at St. Anthony. He went on to complete his elementary education and graduated there from eighth grade before moving on to Sierra High School where he graduated in 2008.