When we entered the sprawling 3.5-acre grounds of Villamaria Good Shepherd Kindergarten & Nursery, tucked away in a secluded corner of Medan Damansara, we had this exhilarating feeling that the air we were breathing had been filtered and oxygenated. With its shady trees, decorative shrubs and flowers, covered walkways, and huge indoor and outdoor playgrounds, it looked more like a holiday resort. Villamaria, which was set up as part of the Good Shepherd Sisters vision that “One person is of more value than the whole world”, is truly a parent’s dream school for his/her child!
The Sisters started the kindergarten and nursery 60 years ago in 1957 (in Jalan Ampang) to reach out to the community and to generate income for their work in helping the disadvantaged and marginalised groups. Today, the profits from Villamaria still go toward the Sisters’ charitable work in various parts of Malaysia, while the Sisters’ mission “We are committed to reaching out with compassion and respect, empowering each person to wholeness and full potential” stands as the guiding principle of the school. Each child is valued as a person and every care is taken to ensure his or her well-being.
Every child that walks through the gates of Villamaria are also instilled with the five core values of the school – respect, gratitude, integrity, compassion and zeal. The classrooms are named after these core values as a reminder to the students, while teachers take every opportunity to introduce these core values in their lessons and to help the children put them into practice. The results are visible. As one parent commented, “All children from Villamaria are well-behaved by the time they are in primary school.”
From a handful of children, today Villamaria’s student population has grown to about 300. Most parents get to know about the school through word-of-mouth. Said Ms Anne Emmanuel, the Director of Good Shepherd Kindergartens & Nurseries, “I believe it is our vision, mission and core values that have drawn parents to send their children here. Parents know that our qualified and experienced teachers are committed to do their best to care for the little ones and ensure an all-round physical, emotional and intellectual development for every child.
“Of course, parents are always delighted with our extensive facilities – spacious and well-ventilated classrooms, learning centres in every classroom, computer lab, library, science garden, sand and water play, and large playgrounds. We have ample space to provide a wide range of extra-curricular activities for the children after school. So far, we have gymnastics, ballet, Aikido, Kickers, creative art, robotics, and extra classes for BM and Mandarin. We are also willing to provide further options if the children show interest.”
Ms Eleanor Loh, Villamaria’s Principal, elaborated further, “Our kindergarten curriculum follows the National Standard Preschool Curriculum, where we use a child-centred approach in combination with thematic learning. For the pre-nursery children, we use a play-based approach, incorporating some Montessori subjects. We also believe that children should learn more than just the academics, so we have projects like World Peace Day and Earth Day that teach them about the world around them. Parents are invited to participate in all our activities as this encourages the child to continue their learning at home. Some parents help their children with the projects, some even help teachers in preparing for our annual concerts. During our Sports Day, there are events for parents, and they get to win prizes, just like their children!”
Villamaria has gained a good reputation for helping children with some special needs and learning disabilities. Said Ms Loh, “We will accept special needs children into our school as long as the doctors say they are able to integrate with other children. We encourage all our students to relate to and help these special children. That’s when they can put our core values into practice. It becomes a win-win situation for everyone.
“In addition to that, our school believes it is important to have a period of observation for all our new students, during which our teachers can help to identify any developmental issues. It is very important to detect any issues as soon as possible so that early intervention can be more effectively undertaken to help the child. If we think professional assessment is needed, we will usually advise parents to refer their child to a developmental paediatrician. And in the event therapy is required, we are always ready to work hand-in-hand with the therapist.” It is indeed so heartening to know that Villamaria takes such care to ensure every student’s well-being.
Here, Ms Anne chipped in to tell us something that few kindergartens can lay claim to: “The beauty of being 60 years old is that we even have third generation students here. We have children whose parents and grandparents were students of Villamaria. I am always so excited when grandparents come up to me to say that their student days at Villamaria were the best times of their lives!”
Indeed that is a testimony that is hard to beat!
Find Out More About Villamaria Good Shepherd Kindergarten & Nursery