In the Department of Education, an educator who has been working a long time in the system is referred to as “seasoned”. As an Assistant principal for 11 years, I guess I am seasoned! To be honest, I feel FRESH AND NEW since joining the District 20 PreK Center team. So many years of my career were devoted to supporting teachers in developing rich curriculum and executing rigorous lessons to engage and challenge students. Unfortunately, all of their efforts were reduced to a complicated formula of students’ standardized test scores. As much as I value student assessment, it was hard to digest that one or two tests would summarize the performance of a school and/or educators.
PreK has always been my passion because it made sense! You get your youngest, most impressionable students and set up a learning environment where they can securely manipulate materials while learning about the world around them. Students can explore their interests free of outside constraints and critical judgment. Students learn at their pace and teachers meet with them individually to support their strengths and weaknesses. Sounds like paradise right? Well it is!!!
When I became a mom, childhood development became fascinating to me. My son Colin became my guinea pig to Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. Funny thing, his theories were on point. In a nut-shell, child-centered play and building on what children already know was the key to success. This experience was priceless to me. Moving through the years as an elementary school assistant principal and then to an assistant principal of grades PreK-12, I knew I wanted to focus on early childhood and work solely with the preschool population. When this position was presented to me, I knew it was meant to be!
These days, I spend my time amongst the most amazing staff at the centers. I collaborate with a team of assistant principals that share the same vision of what early learners should experience in Prekindergarten. I may be partial, but I truly believe that a child’s time in PreK is the most important year of their education. They learn to be part of a community, to respect others, to be independent, to make decisions, to manage their hygiene, to challenge themselves, to trust others, and to have fun while learning! If all the people in our world would have mastered these lessons, the world would be a better place!!!
Thanks for hearing my story and I look forward to many years supporting this wonderful program.
Danielle Bennett, Assistant Principal