Fishel founded the St. Andrews preschool in 1982, shortly after moving to the area and joining the congregation at the church. Fishel said she had recently received her teaching credential, but was hard-pressed to find a job after the passage of Proposition 13 limited property taxes and shrunk school budgets. However, The Little People’s School had moved from Ben Lomond to Boulder Creek leaving a void in Ben Lomond.
“Father Joe Kennedy asked me to start the school,” she said during an interview this week. Kennedy was the church’s rector at that time.
Fishel began holding preschool each morning during the week with the help of aid Barbara Grove. The school has grown over the years and is now a licensed preschool for children 2 ½ to 6 years old in the morning and a daycare in the afternoon.
“It’s a Christian school and we try to help in every way,” Fishel said of the school’s philosophy. “The academic, social, spiritual — the whole child.”
She said the school brings in enough to make ends meet, but not as a money-maker.
“This church sees the school as its mission,” she said. “We are there to try to be there for each individual, as opposed to being just a business.”
With the school being 31 years old, Fishel said she has taught multiple generations in the valley. Most students are from the San Lorenzo Valley, while some come from Scotts Valley, Bonny Doon and Santa Cruz. She’s made an impact on Blaine Hammond, Saint Andrew’s rector for nearly four years.
“My favorite memory of her happened when the power was out all over the valley,” Hammond said. “I walked in (to the preschool) and the only light was a couple of lanterns, and here she was with a picture book, lying on the floor reading with the kids. She doesn’t do it because she loves the school, she loves it because she loves the kids and the parents.”
The school has hired a new director — Allie Maxson — a Ben Lomond native who earned her Bachelor’s degree in child development from San Jose State University.
A retirement party was scheduled to be held after press-time on Thursday, June 13 and Fishel’s last day is July 26.
Fishel said that she’s looking forward to spending time with her husband Jerry Fishel, a retired baseball coach at Cabrillo College, her children and her 17 grandchildren — nine of which came through the preschool. She will also continue as the part-time treasurer and secretary for St. Andrews.