We love to see young children thrive, and we know that happens best in warm, secure environments that give plenty of time for fun, exploration, and discovery.  At Happy Hands Preschool, our staff is passionate about providing this setting for every child in our care.

We partner with families to help their children:

  • adjust well to new situations
  • feel comfortable and secure with their environment
  • learn to reason and problem solve
  • successfully communicate with others
  • develop a positive self image
  • feel ready for Kindergarten

We’d love to give you a tour of our facility and answer your questions about our philosophy of education. For more information, call 815-875-2124 or email me at happyhands@eccprinceton.org.

– Joyce Johnson, Director



Happy Hands Preschool was established in 1967. It is a non-profit weekday preschool that provides an atmosphere and setting that is conducive to creative learning for children. The preschool plans a program that encourages the social, emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual needs of children. Our facilities are designed for the preschooler and our program of free-play periods alternated with  directed activities is designed to meet the needs of growing children.


It is our purpose to provide an environment that allows a child to develop a positive self-image. This is accomplished by allowing children to learn at their own pace and in ways that will encourage good habits and positive attitudes. Our goal is to help children:

  • adjust to new situations
  • feel comfortable and secure in their environment
  • learn to reason and problem-solve
  • successfully communicate and share with others
  • develop a love for learning

Happy Hands Preschool is sponsored by the Evangelical Covenant Church of Princeton. The director is responsible for the daily operation of the school. The director reports to the Happy Hands Commission which has the responsibility for the basic structure and content of the program. The Commission consists of the pastor, a treasurer, four members of the church’s congregation, the lead teachers and the director.

Phone: 815-875-2124
Email: happyhands@eccprinceton.org

CLASSES (updated for 2023-2024)

Three-year-old children may attend two sessions per week. Four and five-year-old children may attend two or three sessions per week. Classes begin in September and end in the middle of May. Our preschool attempts to follow the schedule of the Princeton Elementary School System with regards to most vacation times.

  • Class for 3’s T/Th a.m. 9:00 – 11:15
  • Class for 3’s, 4’s & 5’s M/W a.m. 9:00 – 11:15
  • Class for 4’s & 5’s T/Th p.m. 1:00 – 3:15
  • Class for 4’s & 5’s M/W/F p.m. 1:00 – 3:15


The monthly tuition fees are as follows:

  • 2 sessions per week – $92 per month
  • 3 sessions per week – $138 per month

Payment is usually made on a monthly basis. An envelope is sent home with each child  at the end of each month with the tuition due on or before the 10th of the next month.  There is also an option of multiple monthly payments or one yearly payment. If a child is absent due to an extended illness, an adjustment may be made according to the number of days he or she attends per week. There are no “make-up days.” Refunds or reductions are not made for any reason except extended illness.

Scholarships are available if financial help is needed.


Happy Hands classes are available as morning or afternoon classes, two or three days a week (depending on your child’s age and your family’s preference). Each day, your child’s classroom experience will include a blend of different activities, such as:

  • Opportunities to explore a variety of learning centers
  • Stories, games, and songs
  • Awareness of shapes, colors, numbers, and letters
  • Art activities
  • Snack time
  • Activities that enhance both large and small motor development


If you’re interested in exploring Happy Hands for your child, you may be wondering:

What are the requirements for attending preschool?

  • Your child must be three years old by September 1
  • Your child must be toilet trained
  • A non-refundable registration fee must be paid at time of registration
  • A completed medical form with doctor’s signature is due on your child’s first day of attendance

Where can I find practical details about things like the class schedule and tuition?

Registration and Enrollment Information

If you still have questions, please email or call us – we’d love to help!


Parents and the children enrolled in Happy Hands are invited to the classroom for a short period of time the week prior to the opening day of school. This visit provides an opportunity to meet the teachers and to become acquainted with the program and the facilities. Children also meet their classmates on that day. Details of the date and time are sent to parents in August.


Joyce Johnson

I have been a part of Happy Hands for 38 years (38 as a lead teacher and 36 as the Director).  My husband, Kent, and I live in Princeton and have two children.  Our daughter and son-in-law live in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and have 2 children.  Our son and daughter-in-law live in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and have 2 children. I received my teaching degree at North Park University and previously taught in Glenview (Chicago suburb) and Wyanet.  I love music, playing piano and spending time with my friends and family. I also love to FaceTime with my grandchildren!

Paula Ellberg

I have been a lead teacher at Happy Hands for 29 years.  My husband, Dan and I live in Princeton.  We are blessed to have our son and daughter and their families also residing in Princeton.  I received my B.A degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa and my Early Childhood Certification from IVCC.  I love spending time with my seven grandchildren, who are the joy of my life.  I also enjoy reading, Sudoku puzzles, baking and tinkering in the flower garden.  I am a cat lover and an enthusiastic Iowa Hawkeye fan!

Sheena Johnson

I have been teaching at Happy Hands for 5 years after working for 5 years as an Occupational Therapist in the school system and in Early Intervention.  I live with my husband, David (Doc), and our 2 children at Menno Haven, a Christian camp in Tiskilwa, where my husband serves as Executive Director.  I love to play games with my family, try out new recipes with food from my garden and relax with a book.  My favorite days involve laughing with my family and friends.

Diane Smith

I have been teaching at Happy Hands for 5 years after working for 35 years as a special education teacher and administrator at Princeton High School.  My husband, Tad, and I have three adult children – Ethan, Justin and Aubrey – and four grandchildren.  I love spending time in conversation with family and friends, enjoy time spent at any beach and I have a great sense of humor.  Because I really do not enjoy cooking, I can tell you the best restaurants to visit in a four-state radius.

Marla Schultz

My family and I recently moved back to Princeton, and I am excited to be starting my third year of Happy Hands. I received my A.A.S. in Early Childhood Education from IVCC and have worked in daycare and in both public and Christian affiliated preschools in Princeton and Mackinaw.  My husband, Brice, and I live on a farm north of Princeton, along with our son and daughter.  I am grateful that being back in the area has given me more opportunities to spend time with my family.  I enjoy reading, going antiquing, and doing DIY projects. I prefer being outdoors and get a great sense of satisfaction doing yard work (although reading on my deck in the great outdoors is the best of both worlds!)

Melissa Ackerman

After being a Happy Hands mom for the last couple of years, I am very excited to be starting my second year as an assistant teacher at Happy Hands! My husband, Brandon and I live in Princeton with our two boys.  I’m a proud alumna of Judson University, where I received my degree in Early Childhood Education. I enjoy checking out garage sales, going for walks, and listening to audiobooks. Finding ways to spend time with friends and family with my kids in tow is fun for us too!

Our teachers are trained in early childhood development and they have many years of experience in working with young children. All staff members meet the requirements of the State of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. They are required to attend workshops and are encouraged to participate in classes that pertain to early childhood. Each teacher has a genuine interest in the young child and provides a quality learning experience for children.


Thank you for your interest in enrolling your child in Happy Hands! You may request a registration form by calling 815-875-2124. Please mail or drop off your completed registration form and a $25 non-refundable registration fee to Happy Hands Preschool (24 N. Main Street, Princeton, IL 61356). All checks need to be made payable to Happy Hands Preschool.

Each child must have a physical examination prior to the beginning of school. We will provide a medical form which must be completed and presented by the first class session.

REGISTRATION FOR 2024-2025 – All classes are full as of March 1. If you are interested in placing your child’s name on a waiting list, please contact Happy Hands at 815-875-2124.