Category archives: Kennett Square

Meet Jan, the founder of AHHAH–arts holding hand and hearts.

1. Can you tell us a little bit  about yourself ?

My life has been a winding road full of many wonderful twists and turns that have all lead me to AHHAH.
I grew up in Nashville and was going to major in psychology but was invited to act in a summer theatre program my senior year and was hooked and changed my major to theatre.  I was a professional actress in NYC for 18 years, even was in a a horror film, Mad  Man where I get axed in the chest and my head shot off (that always grabs the attention of youth in detention when I share that tidbit).  
I have a BA degree in Theatre and a Master’s in Education, my thesis was “Does and Arts Infused Curriculum enhance the academic success of children labeled “at risk”?”
I have two children, Ian who is 35 and a lawyer in Norristown, and Caitlin who is  31, an artist, dancer and the most amazing mother of my 2 year old grandson in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
We moved to Unionville 25 years ago.  I started a ‘Science Alive’ program at Unionville Elementary school when it was a K-3 school when my daughter was in 1st grade and then was hired to bring the program to Chadds Ford Elementary.  After getting my Master in Education, I moved on up to Patton Middle School and  taught English, Science, Life Management Skills and assisted the after school drama program.
My husband had worked at the World Trade Center in NYC.  I had always said when my children were grown and I was a grandmother I would go back to acting.  After 9/11 I realized that if you have a dream, you can’t put it on a shelf and say “one day” but pursue it now.  I finished that school year and once again pursued acting this time in Philadelphia.  
My first day not teaching, I was cast in a show “Snow is Falling” with Philadelphia Young Playwrights. During the rehearsals, when they found out that I had been a teacher, I was asked to be a teaching artist teaching playwriting with children in inner city schools in Philadelphia.  A truly AHHAH moment.  I was a teaching artist for both PYP and the Philadelphia Theatre Company for 8 years.  

I also lead the drama program with the Philadelphia Senior Center across the street from Suzanne Roberts Theatre and was a member of CAAN- Creative Arts and Aging Network.  I was part of the planning committee for a town hall meeting at World Live Cafe in 2002 of the importance of professional arts programming with seniors that was a nationwide movement to get funding for professional senior arts programming. The theme of the town hall meeting was think globally but act locally. 

2. When and why did you start AHHAH? 

I started an intergenerational program called Hands Across the Ages which combined senior citizens at the Kennett Senior Center and teenagers at the Garage to share their stories and break down the walls between the generations.  The teens came to the senior center after school for workshops where we used theatre techniques to build connections.  The next year the seniors went to the high school as part of an after school program.
I brought this program to Philadelphia Theatre Company as part of their “Philly Reality” program.  I worked with the Philadelphia Senior Center and the World Communications Charter School which was across the street.   Fall of 2012 they picked the issue of bullying in school and that we need more arts education not more guards with guns.  The piece they wrote together was, “I AM LIVING”.  December 12 was the Sandy Hook killing.  I AM LIVING was performed to a packed audience at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.  At the talk back after the performance, young and old shared having been either bullied or being a bully, not realizing the impact of words to hurt a person and became advocates to stop bullying.
Three weeks later I found out that  three of the inner city schools where I was teaching were closing and three weeks after than I found out that funding for the arts of the other inner city schools was being cut.  I said to the director of education at PTC that if the government does not believe that children in poverty deserve an arts education and are just going to funnel them into the prison system, then we need to bring our programs to the children in the juvenile justice system.
The education director said they didn’t go there and I said, ” I guess I have to open my own organization that does.”  I quit my job.
I get up early in the morning 4 am  to meditate ( that’s when my husband starts snoring and I felt it was better to get up and meditate instead of tossing and turning with a pillow over my ears or his head!) and journal.  The day after I quit I journaled and asked  “Ok what do I do now, and as if channelled my hand wrote, AHHAH.  I wrote what does AHHAH stand for and I wrote Arts Holding Hands and Hearts.  I closed my journal and said to myself, “I guess that’s my new organization.”  

3. Can you share some stories from AHHAH programs?

I teach 6 am yoga at Yoga Secrets in Kennett. That morning after teaching I asked, Can anyone get me into the prisons legally.
There was a new person in class who said she was a parole officer and said I need to talk to Carrie Avery and Joe Frankenstein at the Chester County Youth Center.  I said,”Is this a horror film joke, Carrie and Frankenstein! It wasn’t.  I met with Carrie and Joe and a week later I started a weekly trauma sensitive yoga class.  Three months later we started a creative writing program.  That was in 2013.
The first writing program was with girls in the shelter for homeless and abused girls at CCYC. There were 4 girls, all from Coatesville.  The first girl who shared was Sarena, who wrote, “I am the daughter of a teenage mother who was the daughter of a teenage mother who was the daughter of a teenage mother with no father in sight.”  The next girl who shared wrote about being raped at 12 by her uncle while her mother was in the room and the baby crying that stopped him from taking her again but she forgave him because she knew that she would be in prison in her heart if she didn’t forgive.  I knew then that AHHAH had to make Coatesville our base to see how we could stop the youth from Coatesville entering the juvenile justice system.
Our first grant was a 21st Century Learning Center grant and we facilitated trauma sensitive yoga and after school playwriting classes with students at Scott Middle School in 2014.  We then found out that children in kindergarten were being suspended in Coatesville.  We knew if we were going to be more than a bandaide we needed to reach families with children 0-5.  We started a Family Story Time Yoga program for children 2-5 with a caregiver at the Coatesville Library.
One of the mothers in our first class, mother was a teacher in Early Start a program with Head Start.  She introduced us to the director of Coatesville Head Start and we facilitated Storytime Yoga for free to 5 Head Start classes in Coatesville.  2019 AHHAH brings our Storytime Yoga program to over 400 children in Chester County.
 In my research of why so many children in poverty enter the juvenile justice system I found statistics that children in poverty are exposed to 30 MILLION words less by the time they are five than children in a middle class or more affluent household.
2015 was the City of Coatesville’s 100 anniversary.  I spearheaded a “PULL” (Pop Up Lending Library) Campaign to get 100 both indoor and outdoor PULL Stations throughout Coatesville.
2018 the Longwood Rotary gave AHHAH $1500 for materials to build 10 PULL Stations in Kennett Square. The Kennett Square community embraced the PULL Campaign.  AHHAH partnered with the Kennett Library and the Kennett Culture and Arts group in identifying locations, artists, and collection of books.

Please check AHHAH website for more information:www.artsholdinghandsandhearts.com

How long have you been painting? 
 
Coming from a family of creators and performers, I grew up with a love for all things creative. In high school, I was more drawn to music and performance but still dabbled in painting. Visual/fine art was something that I had always loved and when it came time to decide on a career path, the visual side took the lead. I went to Delaware College of Art and Design for my associates in Fine Arts and West Chester University to finish my bachelors. After that I was employed as a photography assistant for an auction house in Downingtown, I now currently work there as one of their lead photographers. Although I loved all of the creative formats that I had been allowed to experience, I felt like there was something else that I could use as an outlet, so I decided to play around with the idea of watercolor.  But it wasn’t until I worked at Philter that I started painting as a freelance artist. The owner, Chris Thompson, allowed me to hang my work in the shop, which received an awesomely positive response and things continued grew from there. 
How did you become interested in watercolor? 
 
The funny thing is, I have always been more drawn to oil paints and heavier mediums. In school, I had a very heavy hand and loved high contrast and texture, so oils and charcoal were always my go-to. The love for watercolor came as quite a surprise. I fell in love with the way each layer influenced the next, allowing you to see a history beneath them. Its such a delicate medium, and I was always told how scary it was to use, so it was pretty intimidating when the time came to try it. I wanted to experiment one day, and after I painted my first goldfish, I fell in love with the medium. I’ve never been one to create clean and crisp work, which is something that is usually associated with watercolor. Through playing with it, I had realized that it was much more fun to make a mess. Watercolors are known to be hard to control, and with this knowledge, I’ve learned to let go of my own expectations through the process and allow it to have an active role in creating the piece as well. Why try to control something that can be so beautiful in it’s own right? That’s where the splashes and drips come in. 🙂 Though over the last 3 years, I have worked in a bigger format, moving to larger canvas pieces. This required a heavier paint to stick to the canvas, so a lot of my more recent pieces are done with acrylic in a watercolor style -which opens up a whole other world of playing and experimentation. But I must say that every time I go back to watercolor, my heart is re-stolen. It is a truly beautiful art form.
What attracts you the most–when looking for potential subject matter? 
Painting is truly an outlet for me. So it really depends on my mood and whats happening in life, as cliche as it may sound, those things really do influence what kinds of works come to fruition. Sometimes when I’m not feeling anything in particular but have the need to create, colorful abstract pieces with come to mind. Most of the time my works consist of animals. I’ve always been an animal person, if I didn’t choose this career path, then it certainly would been one involved with fur friends. So I’d say that they influence my work quite a bit. I love the idea of the spirit animal. I feel like everyone has one that they connect with, so shedding light on that is always a fun adventure. I’m especially drawn to woodland creatures- foxes, wolves, and hawks are some of my favorite subjects. They’re pretty independent creatures, though obviously wolves can be big “pack” animals, I feel like there’s a quiet “loner” side that is easy to relate to as well. Color also plays a huge role in my process. I’m a huge fan of color, and I love playing with it in spots that you may not usually find it- like if something is supposed to appear black or in shadow, in nature if you really look at something that appears black, it actually consists of so many other colors. I think that’s half of the fun when creating these pieces, finding things that you wouldn’t usual see at first glance, but somehow makes it all work. It allows the viewer to really observe, search for, and discover something, creating their own connection to the piece, which is really my goal.
Who were the watercolor artists who inspired you most? 
 
Though I haven’t seen many watercolors by him, Cy Twombly is a huge one….I even nerded out to the point of naming my cat after him. At first I never really understood his work, but that’s what made me fall in love with it. He seemed to be purely about color and placement. Things don’t have to make sense in his pieces but they certainly convey something. Lora Zombie’s works really helped to inspire me in taking on watercolor. Her pieces are super fun and edgy, usually consisting of pop culture subjects. And she’s never afraid to make a mess when it comes to watercolor. There is also a ton of talent in my personal tribe and local community that is super inspirational. I’m extremely lucky and thankful to have so many talented friends who influence and inspire my work as well. Its great to be able to bounce ideas back and forth, get feedback and to really be able to be completely supported and vulnerable with these fellow humans. That kind of connection is important.
What are you working on now? 
I’m currently gearing up for the Holiday freelance season, it’s always a super fun and creative time. There are a few pieces that I have in mind that will need to be put on canvas soon (and possibly t-shirts!), so be on the look out for those! There are also some pretty exciting things that are being balanced with the freelance painting as well – my family recently started the On the Roll Inc, Food Truck, which has kept us all very busy and excited! I am thankful to be apart of that endeavor. I am also currently planning out the holiday display at Philter Coffee. Its always a fun process and its nice to take a shot at 3D work between paintings. So I’m super excited to see what we’ll come up with next!

Meet Caroline, artist, art writer, event maker.

How do you introduce yourself?
Caroline Roosevelt. 


How did you find yourself in the art world and decide to stay?
My passion has always orbited around art. As I child, I started drawing and was encouraged to do so by my mother (who is an artist!) I excelled at art in high school, entering and placing in competitions, and studied studio art and art history at Connecticut College. After graduating, I moved to Philadelphia and attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where I continued to suss out what I’m trying to do with my art. As an adult, I continue to pursue artistic endeavors while also engaging the community. I write an art column for Chadds Ford Live and Chester County Press called Mixed Media, and have been enjoying that since November. I still create my own work, and sell my cards at worKS, as well as participate in community art events. I recently established a Pop Up Arts committee dedicated to uplifting the arts in the Kennett area through Pop Up Events. It seems that, no matter where I go, art follows me and I’m realizing that’s not a coincidence. 

What are you working on right now? How did the project come to you?

Right now I’m working on a few paintings for the Evening of The Arts. I’m looking to expand into some more fauvist styles of painting. I have also just learned how to frame my own work, so I’m practicing that as well. 

We also have a Pop UP Art event in Kennett Square on June 1st so, stay tuned for more info!

 
Why did you decide to move to Kennett square?
I am originally from the area. After living in dense metropolitan areas for 10 years, I was ready to slow down a little bit and recalibrate, and that landed me back in Kennett which has been a really fantastic thing for me. I work for the Kennett Township, and participate in community events in the borough as well. I love this community!
What do you like most about Kennett Square?
I love how Kennett has grown into itself in the past ten years. It’s changed from a sleepy agricultural town, to a lively community full of artists and entrepreneurs with big ideas. There will always be a part of the community that will long for the past, and challenge ingenuity, but overall, I see Kennett as receptive to change while still respecting its roots, and that’s one of the most attractive things about this town. 

 

Meet David, the owner of Unionville Saddle. David is a fashion designer, after living in New York for a decade he is bring his love of custom garment making back to here.

What sparked your interest in fashion?

Growing up I always had an interest in fashion, I remember reading GQ or sketching what my favorite pop stars’ were wearing but I was always more interested in fine arts.  I grew up painting and drawing and didn’t begin to sew until I was a senior in high school. I really got interested in fashion when I went to Parsons School of Design in NYC.  While I was studying I realized that fashion was a way to communicate  concepts while exploring traditional construction techniques and making people feel amazing.

What is your brand philosophy?

My brand philosophy revolves around the concept of Your Body Infinite Options.  Studying and working in the fashion industry for a decade opened my eyes to some major flaws in the current fashion system.  From not providing adequate sizing in stores to crippling runway and production costs I have decided to approach the business in a much different way by creating single pieces specifically to a client’s needs.  I believe that clients are looking for something that is made just for them, in the past women would have clothes made for them by dressmakers, working one on one to create something completely original and with a perfect fit for them.  My goal is to make every client feel at home while working with them to create pieces that will flatter every part of them, last, and look modern for years to come.

How do you describe your fashion and style?

I like when there is a mix of minimal clean lines and rawness, I love when frayed edges contrast the perfect fit.  There always needs to be a balance comfort and elegance, weight and lightness, color and texture.

What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?

Currently, I am working with the concept of my transition from a city life in NYC to life in Unionville.  I have always used personal experience in life as my inspiration for my collections and this transition has been the most shocking and rewarding process of my life.

Talk us through the process of creating a garment. How long does it normally take to create a dress? what’s the procedure like?

Making a garment can take anywhere up to a year, particularly for bridal gowns.  The process always begins with a conversation, what do you need, when do you need it, what will the function be?  Then I will show a client some fabrics that may work with what they need and we begin to sketch. Once a design is selected I drape the piece, make a pattern, fit a muslin, and order the final fabric.  Once the pattern is corrected I cut the garment in final fabric, sew it, and fit the final piece. Depending on how complicated the garment is it may need more fittings to get the correct the fit.

Check David’s website and instagram for more information.

Meet Shannon, Mother of two beautiful girls, owner of  Penny  lane emporium.

Can you tell us about yourself?
 
I live in Chadds Ford with my two daughters, Lily & Quinn, and my husband, Rob.  I grew up in Chadds Ford and we moved back a few years ago to raise our family here.  I love this area so much.  It holds a lot of personal history and happy memories and I’m so grateful we came back.  I worked in corporate retail for 17 years, most recently at Urban Outfitters Inc, where I spent 14 years working in Merchandising in the Planning & Allocation department.  I recently left my corporate career to venture out on my own and chase a life long dream of opening a retail shop.  My family is my biggest Joy.  I think good girlfriends and good wine are an essential part of life.  I love to travel,
be silly with my kids and believe that life is truly what you make of it.
What made you want to open a children clothing store? 
As I was exploring what I wanted to do with the next chapter of my career, I knew I wanted to open a local shop in the community.  In the end, I put together the elements of what I believe I know best:  Retail + Parents + Kids.  I use my own daughters as inspiration and follow their lead on what they like in their personal lives.  I like the fun, whimsical nature of children’s retail.  I felt that was missing in Kennett Square and I wanted to bring something unique and fresh to the town.
Where did the name Penny Lane Emporium come from?
Penny Lane has a whimsical feel to it.  To me, it feels like a warm and welcoming location, a place I would be curious to visit.  Emporium also feels very fun and magical and helps communicate the variety of items we sell.  Clothing, accessories, gifts, shoes, novelties, ice cream, etc.
What makes your store unique?
Penny Lane Emporium offers a engaging retail experience for parents and kids.  I really wanted to create a space that kids would want to visit.  As a parent, I am very familiar with the challenges of shopping with children.  If I can engage the kids in the retail experience as well, it’s a win win for everyone.  We have a small, but cheerful kid’s area with chalk board and coloring activities, a Little Free Library that serves as a community book exchange for kids, a Mouse Hunt riddle for kids to solve for a prize and of course, Mochi Ice Cream.  I hope kids, as well as, parents will want to come back again and again.
What do you think about Kennett Square?
 
I have always loved Kennett Square and was really excited to become a local business owner in town.  Little did I know how amazing it really is!  The community feel of Kennett is fostered by the amazing merchants, business owners and borough government.  Everyone has been supportive, helpful and welcoming to Penny Lane.  It truly is a unique and wonderful place and I feel very fortunate to be fulfilling my dream in this community.
For more information visit website here:https://pennylaneemp.com
  1. Janet Cook and family said:
    Best of luck Shannon in your new endeavor. We wish you all the best.
    June 7, 2017  1:14 pm
    Reply

Meet Nat– a fine art photographer in Kennett Square. 1.Tell us a little bit about you?

I am originally from Brooklyn N.Y. We moved a lot when I was a kid which always made me feel like an outsider. I think that helped me to be a keen and objective observer of my surroundings which has served me well when I hold a camera up to my eye. After spending many years on the F Train to Manhattan where I worked as a commercial photographer, my wife and I decided it was time to make a change. We set our sights on the Brandywine Valley and ultimately ended up here in Kennett Square, where we raise our two daughters. My day job is in the Exhibitions department at Winterthur Museum in nearby Wilmington. When I’m not at work I spend just about every minute making or thinking about making images. It’s an obsession really. I can’t not do it.

2.How did you get into photography?

I was very visual when I was a child. This might sound strange but I would arrange images of my surroundings in my head in ways that would aesthetically please me. During my middle-school years I received as a gift my first 35mm camera, a Nikon FM. It gave me the opportunity to get those images out of my head and into an actual photograph . When I got to high school I really immersed myself in the craft of photography. I spent every minute I could in the darkroom. The obsession became so great that I would accidentally cut classes because I’d lose track of time trying to get that perfect print. After graduating high school I attended a very intensive photography school and quickly landed an assistant’s job in the studio of a small advertising agency in NYC. I started out like most assistants do—sweeping the studio, developing film, painting sets, and changing the cat litter. I soon worked my way up to staff photographer, doing mostly still life work for catalogs and ads for big name clients in the NY giftware and toy industry. As a way to escape the monotony of photographing merchandise I started to shoot people. I fell in love with portraiture and it’s what I love to do most now.

3. What’s your favorite subject?

My daughters, without question. They are the most expressive, generous, and patient people. If I ran out of anything else to photograph, I’d be very happy to photograph them everyday. I’m not sure how they’d feel about that though.

4. What do you think about film vs digital?

I’m kind of two minds about this. Film will always be special to me. Artistically speaking there’s a certain soulful quality and warmth about film as well as the tactile aspect of the materials that’s very exciting to me. I like how it forces you to slow down—to be more thoughtful, more deliberate. I attended an alternative process workshop last year that reinvigorated my interest in making old-school, hand-crafted images. However, compared to digital sensors, film can be limiting in terms of speed, color temperature, workflow, and that sort of thing. Not to mention the cost factor of film and development. Despite all that there seems to be a resurgence of film in the marketplace at the moment. I’m not sure if it’s nostalgia or a real honest-to-goodness backlash to our overly digitized world. Time will tell but what I do feel very strongly about is whichever medium best expresses your artistic vision is the right medium to use.

5.Where do you get your inspiration?

That’s the kind of question I could answer for days! I like finding the extraordinary in what would otherwise be considered very ordinary subject matter. I look for the beauty in the imperfection of things. Also, since I was very young, I’ve been quite fascinated and maybe even obsessed with the passage of time. I like fleeting moments. The moments between moments. I’m not sure if it necessarily comes through in all my work, but it is always on my mind.

6.A photographer who inspires you

When it comes to the great iconic figures of photography, Irving Penn has probably had the greatest influence on me, especially when I was a younger photographer. He blurred the lines between art and craft. He treated street trash with the same care and attention to detail as he would the finest examples of haute couture. What I love most about Penn is how he focused in equal measure on the dignity and humanity of his portrait subjects, whether they were artists, celebrities, common workers, or indigenous peoples.

Having said that though, I’d regret not adding that in the past few years I’ve become friends with several like-minded photographers, some who I’ve only met through social media, who are generous, supportive, and constructive. Photographers who create and share amazing, meaningful, and very personal work. Work presented without ego. Work that inspires conversation and exploration. That kind of inspiration is hard to beat.

To learn more about Nat’s work check his instagram: https://www.instagram.com/natalecaccamo/

Meet Kelly, she is a Lawyer, Columnist, also a Blogger for Social Stylate.

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What was your dream job when you were a kid?

My dream job was to become a pediatrician. However, as a kid, I did not realize the plot twist looming in my future that I affectionately refer to as “Organic Chemistry”. Yikes.

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You are a lawyer, blogger, columnist, what’s next?

I am in the midst of changing careers! After many years of practicing family law and custody mediation, I decided to go back to school for a graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health. I am excited to help children and families transition through the divorce process from a therapeutic perspective, as opposed to a litigious one. 
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When and how did you start  your career in so many fields?
My family and friends like to tease me that I have as many jobs as there are hours in a day (which, at times, feels like an accurate statement!). However, at this point in my life, I am used to juggling a multitude of tasks. The “counselor” in me likes to help people and the “fashionista” in me loves to be surrounded by beautiful clothes, shoes, handbags, and make-up! I can’t possibly choose a favorite…so, I try to do it all. 
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What’s your typical day look like?
I rarely have a typical day! It’s possible for me to be facilitating a custody mediation in the morning, taking photos at No.109 Shop or Houppette for social media posts in the afternoon, and counseling in the early evening. In between those jobs, I try my best to be a good wife and mother. Although, if you were to look in my laundry room right now, you can tell that housekeeping is not on my list of daily chores. 
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What is your 5 tips for time management in a multitasking world?

Ugh, perfecting the art of multitasking is ever-evolving . While I am by NO means an expert, here are my best suggestions:
  • Write it down -I can’t survive without my Day Planner. I like to physically record my schedule with paper and pencil, as opposed to keeping notes on my phone. 
  • Exercise – This may sound silly, but, making a workout a priority is critical, in my opinion. It is easy to let the drudgery of daily life get in the way of self care. But, a good sweat is as important for your mind as it is for your body. 
  • Sleep – When I take on too much, I have a tendency to stay up really late trying to get everything accomplished. The result? I am cranky and totally unproductive the next day. Forcing myself to get a minimum of seven hours is a worthwhile mission. 
  • Delegate – Sometimes it is difficult to relinquish control to others (especially if you are a perfectionist, like I am). However, learning how to ask and accept help from others is important. 
  • Have FUN – Embrace your busyness! If you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off, you may as well be having a good time doing it. I work with some fabulous people who challenge and energize me and it makes the crazy schedule all worthwhile. 

This is Mrs Godfrey, she is my daughter’s first grade teacher in Greenwood Elementary school. When I first time met her in her classroom, I saw a lot of her past students came back to visit. At that time I didn’t know her, but I could see how much she loves her job and the students.

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How long have you been teaching?

I started teaching in 1989 as a long term substitute in a sixth grade classroom shortly after getting my teaching certificate from the University of Pittsburgh. I went to Allegheny College where I majored in Psychology. I student taught in fifth grade. I have taught preschool, kindergarten, first, fourth and sixth grades. I have a Master’s Degree and a principal’s certificate in Educational Leadership from Lehigh University. I have been an assistant principal as well.

 

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What was your dream job as a kid?

Like a lot of educators, I dreamed of being a teacher. I played school with the neighborhood kids and always had a chalkboard handy. That may be the reason I still use the chalkboard in my classroom from time to time. I have always been drawn to children, and I would often hang out with my mom who worked in a school. While she worked, I would help the teachers. I especially liked when they would get new books. I often imagined myself as a writer. I still do. When I’m planning lessons, I think about writing a book that would be just right for the class. Unfortunately, I haven’t written all of the books I have created in my mind yet, but someday, I hope to make that my job as well. Sometimes, I have turned class projects into books so I guess I am on my way…

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Can you tell us about your first day of teaching?

I have a “first day of teaching” each year. I always feel the same way…excited and apprehensive. Even after all these years, I still get butterflies in my stomach. I usually don’t get much sleep thinking about all of the things to do and all of the new faces in the classroom. Someone once told me that you know it’s time to leave teaching when you no longer get nervous about the first day. I guess, I’m here to stay for a while longer. Now that I am more experienced, I can enjoy the excitement more than I did that very first day. I love how fresh everything is….the crayons, the pencils, the lesson plan book, the students, and me. Our year is a blank book waiting to be written. Even though, I’ve done this before, I know each year will be different. It is a mystery that we solve together one day at a time. And before you know it, the book has been written, the mystery solved and it’s time to say good-bye. And on that last day of school, I feel excited and apprehensive because now I have to let go of those children who have taken hold of my heart!

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What is your philosophy on teaching?

My philosophy is to be responsive. Teaching is a dynamic process. There are academic expectations and goals to achieve, but more importantly, the children in the classroom are people with many different interests, skills and needs. My job as a teacher is to respond to each of the students in a way that honors their developmental and academic needs. I believe that all children innately want to learn, and that they learn in many different ways. I believe in the power of play and exploration! It is my goal to facilitate learning by giving the children opportunities to engage in activities that are meaningful to them. I also think it is important for me as an early childhood teacher to develop good learning habits. We practice these skills playfully and authentically as we work our way through each school day. We laugh, dance, do a little yoga, read, write, add, subtract, struggle, argue and sometimes cry, but we do it together and form a community along the way. My job is to respond to each of those times with the love and inspiration needed for each child to grow and learn.

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What were your five most memorable teaching moments?

  1. Each year, we begin first grade by watching caterpillars turn into monarch butterflies. The first year, I participated in this, I frantically searched for caterpillars in nearby parks and fields. I didn’t know a lot about them, but I decided I needed to learn as much as I could so I could share this miracle with the students. Over the years, I have allowed milkweed, the only food the monarch caterpillar eats, to grow in my front garden. I have visited gardens and attended informational workshops on monarchs so I can learn more to share with the children. I’ve developed relationships with others who share my interest, and this year we are planting a butterfly garden at the school so we can watch them in their natural habitat. Because our first experience in first grade was focused on observing and watching nature, it has become a habit for us. I love when the children have time to be outside to explore and I love the excitement when they discover something new. Looking at the earth through a child’s eyes never gets old!

 

  1. I had a student who was very young for the grade. He had a lot of things going against him, but every day, he came to school with a great attitude. In spite of all of his hard work, he struggled to succeed. One day after several attempts to complete a task, he shouted with joy, “I did it. I got them all right!” He went on to say that he didn’t understand it, but that he kept trying and he told me to look at his work because he got it. The joy on his face brought tears to my eyes. It was a reminder of the reason I became a teacher.
  1. Some years are harder than others. One of my particularly hard years came with a silver lining…. I met some of the most incredible students that year. I was learning a new grade level which is always a challenge. A few students stood out that year. They weren’t the students you might expect, but rather students who were struggling a lot to keep up. I think we developed a bond, because that year, I remembered how hard learning can be. I found myself spending extra time after school with these students, and my work with them, helped me work through the new curriculum. They were able to spend some extra time they needed to learn the material which ultimately helped them become more successful. The memorable part of this experience was that several years later they reached out to me to ask me to help them with a school project. I was honored that they considered me to be a resource to them even after they had left my classroom.
  1. Projects can be a memorable experience. One in particular I remember was as a fourth grade math teacher. Somehow, we fit 40 fourth grade students into a portable classroom for an enrichment math project. We were learning about measurement in math and electrical currents in science, so I decided to have the students design and build dollhouses with electricity. We used foam board and glue guns for construction and added doorbells and lights to develop our understanding of open and closed circuits. Once the houses were constructed, the students decorated them with paint, wallpaper, and fabric scraps for carpet which gave them an opportunity to practice their skills in calculating area and perimeter as well as in art and design. This sounds a lot like a STEM project (but it was way before STEM became a focus!)

 

  1. Every June at graduation, I take a walk down memory lane. I remember the graduates as they were when they were my students and I proudly think of them as mine one more time. The sea of blue and white mortarboards on the front of the high school is filled with students who have touched my heart and soul. I send up a prayer of gratitude for the time I have spent with them along the way.

 

  1. Denise said:
    One of the most admired woman I have had the pleasure to work with! I am very fortunate to have the pleasure of her friendship but my daughter also had the advantage of having her for a kindergarten teacher! She is an inspiration!
    May 28, 2016  4:01 am
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