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The Future Begins in 3-K!

My name is Lori Puglia and I am a 3K teacher at Z111. I am a life-long New Yorker and as other natives know, New York City is never boring! My childhood was filled with fond memories: block parties, blackouts, open hydrants, blasting car horns and the rhythm of languages spoken by people from every corner of the globe. New York City, then and now, encompassed my family, my community and my culture.

I attended the city’s public schools, where I benefited from many dedicated teachers who made a huge impact on my life. My education, including my years at LaGuardia High School, granted me many opportunities and gave me a great foundation in the arts.

The arts played a central role in my upbringing, with many of my best experiences occurring right here in Brooklyn. As a youth, I worked extensively in musical and experimental theater at Brooklyn Academy of Music and at EL Puente, a community-based organization in Williamsburg. El Teatro de Puente, was one of the first community-based theater companies to teach people about AIDS during the epidemic. My interest in theater and educational outreach led me to study at New York University’s TISCH School of the Arts Film and Television, where I studied documentary film-making and became the first member of my family to earn a college degree.

As an adult, early childhood education became my life’s work. During my teaching journey, I was fortunate to have been part of Bank Street College’s Fellowship Awards program, and I was recognized by Brook Park as Teacher of the Year in 2005. Since then, I’ve been an educator in communities as diverse as Santa Barbara Calif., and the South Bronx; I’ve worked at inner-city schools, suburban schools and many places in-between. I have taught myriad grades, populations and curriculums. From working in an outdoor classroom, to working with the Bank Street method and to working now with NYCDOE units of study, each new teaching experience has provided me with the opportunity to enhance my craft and give my students new experiences.

This year marks my first time working as a 3K teacher and it is by far one of the greatest teaching experiences I’ve had. It is also the first year that District 20 is hosting NYCDOE’s 3K program and we are honored to be part of this important endeavor. 3K is one of the most ambitious programs of our time. It offers free, full-day, high- quality education for 3-year-olds. Through our structured daily schedule, my 3K students have the opportunity to grow, make choices and learn to take care of themselves and others. They develop language, cognitive, math, and motor skills. My classroom provides a space where children can socialize, play and gain independence. Such skills are the precursors to academic learning that are paramount now. With less and less social interactions due to COVID-19, the classroom has become a safe haven in these times of uncertainty and unrest. Children are free to explore, share, develop concepts and experiment. Students are also excited to become part of a social unit outside their families. Strong personal connections are made with each and every child so they feel confident and at ease in their new-found independence.

Our typical day begins with morning greetings. Through music and movement, we take time to greet one another, sing as a community, and observe the seasonal charges around us. After breakfast we have library time, where we look at books. Though my students are young, their language skills are nurtured through books, read-alouds, nursery rhymes, puppet shows and plays. To nurture my students’ curiosity, our classroom activities are based on their interests. Students have the opportunity to paint, sculpt, build, design and conduct experiments. This past week, we have been working on creating a classroom banner. Through the use of natural plant dyes, students observed the sudden changes that occurred when our cotton textiles were soaked in a beet-dye bath. After play, we head straight to the playground. Outdoor play is an exciting time! Student’s ride tricycles, play basketball and climb our playground structures. Everyone loves the slide!

We next move on to our “special” classes, where students have a variety of courses such as yoga, art, movement, or a social emotional course, followed by lunch. After a busy day, we settle down with a nap. When we are refreshed and rested, we focus on more individual learning topics such as coloring, puzzles, counting, sorting and math games. Early childhood educational activities like these help children build a strong foundation of skills, knowledge, and approaches to learning that are necessary to succeed in school.

3K is an environment full of the love and warmth that provides nourishment to the senses. It is a place where children can be free in their creative and artistic experiences, as well as in their imaginative play. It is an atmosphere where students are nourished and protected and are able to experience the gratitude, reverence, wonder, joy, humor and happiness of the world. It’s a haven where they feel safe enough to be receptive to the learning at hand and discover their true selves. It’s an honor and a privilege to work with young children. They are creative, open, honest and filled with emotions – the main one being love. Love for themselves, love for their community and love for their environment: We should all take lessons from them.

Lori Puglia- Teacher Z111


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