A casual suggestion from one of their husbands led two Westerville women to a new business venture: running their own preschool at Westerville Christian Church.

A casual suggestion from one of their husbands led two Westerville women to a new business venture: running their own preschool at Westerville Christian Church.

Two years ago, Linda Cochran and Amy Pressler heard Tree of Life Christian Schools would no longer offer its preschool program at Westerville Christian Church, where the women are members.

They were out to dinner with their husbands when Pressler's husband suggested that the pair, both preschool teachers, open their own preschool within the church.

"We laughed and said, 'Right,' but then it started to take root," Cochran said.

Over the next few months, she and Pressler worked on a business plan for such a school and presented it to church leaders.

"The church has been wonderful, very supportive, and the building is just perfect," Cochran said. "It needs small children in it. It was built as an outreach to families."

Cochran has worked in Westerville preschools for the past 16 years, and Pressler for the last six. They combined that experience with their experiences as parents.

"We both know the Westerville preschool landscape," Cochran said. "We know it from a parent's standpoint. We know it from a teacher's standpoint; now we're learning about it from a director's standpoint."

The result of the last two years' work for Pressler and Cochran is the preschool program SPARK, an acronym for "spiritual, playful, artistic, resourceful kids."

The program will offer classes for 3- and 4-year-olds, along with an enrichment program for kindergarten students.

It already has 45 students enrolled and five staff members.

The pre-kindergarten program will take children around the world, studying a different culture each week, Cochran said. Within those social studies lessons, the school will present lessons in math and language arts.

The preschool also has a gym, an indoor playground with a two-story play structure and child-sized climbing wall, a playground and sports field outside and a large art gallery and workshop space for large art projects, Pressler said.

Another thing that will set the preschool apart from others, Cochran said, is the focus on the Christian faith.

"Our plan is to incorporate, on their level, on a 3-year-old's level, the concept that God loves them and to weave that through everything they do," Cochran said.

That philosophy will go beyond the usual reading of Bible stories, praying and singing Christian songs, Cochran said, by involving God's love in the children's school day.

"We are also very excited about our spiritual emphasis, which is geared to help the students know, and show, God's love in their world," Pressler said.

Most importantly, Cochran said, the program aims to create a positive learning environment for students to prepare them for the years of school that lie ahead of them.

"These kids have a long educational road ahead of them. They have a lot of years ahead of them," she said. "If we can show them that school is fun and good things happen there, we're setting them up for success."

More information about SPARK is available online at www.sparkpreschool.com.