By Elsie Walker
Jane Carotenuto of Mendham has more than 40 years teaching experience and her passion for education is still strong. In particular, she believes in the importance of education for young children, to give them a strong foundation going forward.
As such, Carotenuto has started a 501C non-profit pre-school, The Benchmark For Learning. The pre-school is located within the Stanhope United Methodist Church in Netcong. The pre-school takes children age 18 months to six years old and is open five days a week, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Although it is located in a church, it is not affiliated with any denomination. Carotenuto noted that Benchmark For Learning will work with children whose families qualify for Children and Families Services support. Its website is https://www.benchmarkforlearning.com/ and on it is a form to complete for more information or people can call 201-258-9355.
Cartenuto said that Benchmark for Learning provides levels of care and educational opportunities for children in a multi-cultural, interactive and supportive environment. It balances educational and play learning activities.
“The curriculum is carefully planned by professional teachers to meet the needs of each child in a group setting.” she said.
Cartenuto’s background in working with children includes both teaching and volunteer work. She has a master’s in early childhood education. Her more than 40 years of teaching experience includes 16 years as a director, with the last 15 at the Dalrymple House located at Morris County Community College. Cartenuto is certified in infant and child first aid and CPR.
Her volunteer work includes being a tutor for children in the Suburban Cultural Education Enrichment Program (SCEEP) and six years as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for emotionally and physically abused children. In the latter role, she works one-on one with a child in need. For the SCEEP program, on Saturdays, she works with a group of 20 children, grades three to six, from Newark to help them get up to grade level and to have experiences that they usually wouldn’t have in the city like picking apples or shearing sheep.
“I get more out of it than they receive,” she said of her work with SCEEP.
The lead teacher at Benchmark For Learning is Lorrie Curtin, who brings proven experience in helping prepare pre-schoolers for school. Curtin has a master’s in reading instruction and curriculum and an undergraduate degree in art, a love which she shares with the children. She is a highly successful reading instructor.
Cartenuto said that in a previous class lead by Curtin, 13 of 15 children aged four to five years were successfully reading after one year. Curtin brings those important teaching skills to the Benchmark for Learning.
Rounding out the teaching team is Cartenuto’s daughter Christa Cartenuto, who worked on her CDA. Cartenuto is the mother of four children.
When asked what are the most important things young children should learn to give them a good educational foundation, Cartenuto said it is reading, math and science. She noted that in today’s world, children in other countries are ahead and those in this country need to catch up to them to compete in the job market.
In addition to the bright, engaging classrooms, where children will earn and enjoy music and creative and dramatic play, there is a fenced in playground on the church property. Carotenuto said the children will get a chance to play outside every day that weather permits it.
Carenuto is excited about the new pre-school and says she feels privileged to work with the people of the church, who have been very accommodating as she set up her classrooms within the building, she said.