Stanley Preschool, one of the oldest preschools in Chatham, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The celebrations kicked off on November 25th with the school’s first annual Spirit Day. Students, teachers, and staff all wore red – the school color – or a Stanley sweatshirt or t-shirt which feature the school’s teddy bears and balloons logo. The school will also be holding a 50th-anniversary celebration on Saturday, April 18th, where current Stanley families, teachers, and alumni are invited to join for carnival-themed games and activities.  

Stanley Preschool first opened its doors in 1969 to help meet a growing need in the area for schools for young children. “The first year, Stanley Preschool enrolled 33 children in two classrooms. The school grew over the years,” director Marie Nealis said, “but always kept true to its philosophy of learning through play.” Today, Stanley Preschool has more than 100 children in 7 classes. 

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The school offers preschool programs for children ages two and a half to five, plus a range of enrichment programs that expose children to science, technology, engineering, math and creative arts, as well as mindfulness and yoga. Marie Nealis is the director, and Barbara Boos is the registrar and office manager. Nealis said they lead the school“along with a board of directors made up of dedicated parent volunteers.”

Stanley Preschool has grown and changed with expanded facilities and programs over the years, but its core values and approach to education — letting children learn through play— have remained the constant. As it has since its inception, Stanley Preschool seeks to provide an atmosphere that fosters positive self-esteem, a lifelong enthusiasm for learning, and a respect for the cultures and values of others. As one parent said, “To say Stanley holds a special place in our hearts is a vast understatement. Each of our toddlers grew into capable, confident little girls thanks to the warm, caring embrace of Stanley’s teachers and administrators.”

The school also inspires a sense of community and pride that is passed down through generations. Not only do alumni continue to return to Stanley Preschool, dropping off their own children at the school they attended years ago, but so do the teachers and staff. Five members of the current staff have been at Stanley Preschool for more than 25 years, and seven for more than 20 years, with many of them watching their own children — and in some cases, grandchildren — go through the school as well. Emily Wurdemann reflected, “Childhood is truly magical and Stanley made our children’s preschool experience so special. One of the things that I remember most were the smiles and hugs that my children and I received over the years. As my years as a Stanley parent were coming to an end, I was blessed to be offered a chance to return all that was given to our family. It’s a gift to [to teach and] be a part of this wonderful school!”

As Stanley Preschool marks its 50th anniversary, Nealis said the reason for the school’s longevity is that it’s such a special place. “Stanley Preschool has been my home away from home for the past 20 years,” she said. “The Stanley staff, children, families and Barbara Boos are a big part of my life. We all work together to give our children what they need most — love, kindness and respect. For 50 years, Stanley has been preparing children for life, academically, but most important socially and emotionally. We all have such fond memories of our time at Stanley Preschool.”

Registration has begun for the 2020-21 school year. New for next year, all classes will be offered in the morning, with the option of adding lunch, an extended day, and enrichment opportunities throughout the week. Nealis invites families to call her at (973) 635-0755 to schedule a tour and experience the warm and nurturing environment at Stanley Preschool.

Information about the school and its programs can be found at