COLORADO SPRINGS — A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 26, for the opening of a new preschool classroom at Chipeta Elementary School.

“It’s extremely exciting, knowing that I’ve actually met a couple of the students the last few days and knowing this is coming up,” said Lori Bender, Chipeta Elementary School Preschool Teacher. “Just getting to have the kids be able to be in the room really soon is something I’ve been anticipating for several months.”

Colorado Springs School District 11 (D11) is working to expand their preschool program and plan to open up to 256 additional preschool seats in eight school locations.

“It’s hard as a school district because change in the layout of a building, it doesn’t happen overnight,” said Michael Gaal, Superintendent of D11. “So a lot of work went into our team and working with the state to be able to get this classroom ready.”

Superintendent Gaal met Bender at a hiring event and shared with her the vision of adding another preschool classroom.

“We hired Lori Bender on this classroom and so now here we are in October, ready to open it up and get kids in here and allow her to start doing what it is that she’s built to do, which is take care of kids in our schools,” stated Gaal.

D11 is hiring for preschool teachers just like Bender, the application can be found online.

Bender said she knew she wanted to teach at a young age.

“I have wanted to teach since I was a little girl,” said Bender. “I worked in my church nursery back in San Antonio, Texas when I was 12 years old, volunteering.”

Lori Bender holding a piece of the ribbon from the ceremony on Wednesday afternoon in her classroom.

D11 saw the need to invest in early childhood education and expand its preschool program.

“We know that the sooner we get children of all socioeconomic backgrounds, the more likely they are to be persistent and successful and be able to not just meet their potential but exceed it,” said Gaal.

D11 shared the preschool expansion plans will allow for a 43% space increase.

When looking to the future, Bender said “getting to know the families and really getting to build those relationships with the kids to love learning and love to be part of a social group with kids. I really believe that social aspect is huge in the preschool environment.”