Community Spotlight

Little Learning Chiefs Academy in Mackinaw

Little Learning Chiefs Academy in Mackinaw

Two Little Learning Chiefs enjoy making their puzzles.

Pre-school isn’t just about the sand box anymore. As the world becomes more complex and intertwined, the need to update and improve the educational experience of the youngest members of our society becomes a bit more obvious. In Mackinaw, we are lucky that Krista Sands is meeting this challenge head on with her “Little Learning Chiefs Academy”. Not only is the academy providing stimulating lessons for preschoolers, the program is also providing real life teaching experience for high schoolers who are interested in the teaching profession.

The Little Learning Chiefs program started last year with the help of many students. Krista tells me that her high school students helped design the classroom, while also working on a project to research items to be used in the class and then present those ideas for consideration. This year, Krista and her students are more focused on drawing up lesson plans that are based on the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards. This work includes preparing materials, putting together a newsletter, and supporting the younger children in various roles. “We have a REALLY great child to teacher ratio”, Krista tells me. “The children receive a lot of one-on-one attention and the best part of being the head teacher is seeing the relationships grow between the students and the children.”

This year the program is teaching 10 small children and Krista would love to see that grow in the future. “Parents’ needs for their children’s early education will fluctuate with life circumstances and I want parents and the community to be able to see that this program is very supportive of the children’s development and of the high school students’ development”, she says. Krista also notes that she has had an influx of students telling her that they would like to be teachers, which she accredits to her program.

Another aspect of the Little Learning Chiefs Academy that Krista is proud of is the low cost. Thanks to federal funds from Tazewell County Education for Employment, Krista is able to keep enrollment costs at $25 per child, and that money is used to build a scholarship which will be used for a high school student who wants to pursue a career that will involve working with children.

If you have a child between 3-5 and would like to talk to Krista about her program, she is hosting an open house at the high school on Wednesday, April 20th, between 5:30 P.M. and 7:00 P.M. Parents can bring their children to see the classroom, meet Krista and some of the high school students involved, and pick up enrollment packages and an application. If you can’t make that open house, you can reach out to Krista via email at

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