Ms. Tessa has been the Lead Teacher in the Sunflowers classroom for six years. She is originally from St. Lucia and has dedicated over fifteen years of her career to helping children develop holistically. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education and motivates her students with the quote, “Do your best and nothing less.” Ms. Tessa believes that every child is unique and can reach their full potential given the appropriate support and learning experiences. In the interview below, she describes her joy for teaching, her reaction to seeing the newly-renovated Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center at YWCA Princeton, and what makes our curriculum special.
How long have you been working at YWCA Princeton?
I began working at the YWCA Princeton in 2013 as a teacher in the After School program. In 2014, I started subbing in the child care center, and by September of 2015, I became the lead teacher in the preschool classroom.
What do you think of the new childcare wing?
The school wing has transformed teaching and learning. It feels like a completely new school. Our upgraded building is child-centered, welcoming, and secure. We have brighter and more spacious classrooms equipped with developmentally appropriate furniture and materials.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I enjoy watching how much the children blossom through the school year. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that I have contributed to the development and success of my students. For instance, at the end of the school year, I observe the shy children find their voice. Students can spell and write their names. They learn strategies to manage their feelings and are more independent.
Is there anything about our childcare program that you find unique or special?
We provide a nurturing, quality early childhood education for children from diverse backgrounds. In addition, we have bilingual classrooms where children get the opportunity to learn Spanish.
Do you have any favorite memories or events or activities at the childcare center?
I enjoy the annual winter holiday art show. The teachers learn about the traditions and celebrations of the families we serve. The children create beautiful art projects, sing, or follow recipes to prepare holiday snacks. These diverse projects are then shared with families.
I also love the music program with Ms. Jen. I see the positive impact the program has on my students. It contributes to the children’s cognitive, language, and social-emotional development and learning while keeping them actively engaged.
How has COVID-19 changed your daily activities or behavior in the classroom? How have you and the children adjusted?
COVID-19 changed some of our interactions. For instance, we created a new way to greet and say goodbye. Goodbye hugs were changed to goodbye elbow bumps.
We also established new routines. We reminded children of the routines and expectations of our classroom. They learned that everyone is responsible for keeping the classroom healthy by adhering to established practices such as proper and frequent handwashing and wearing a mask. The children adjusted very well. They quickly learned how to put on and care for their face coverings.
Additionally, since face coverings hide facial expressions, we encourage students to identify and express their emotions by using their words and hand gestures like thumbs up for “Everything is ok,” or thumbs down for “Needs help or might be feeling sad.”
Based on what you’ve seen in the classroom; how do children benefit from childcare programs like ours?
Children can benefit significantly from programs like ours. Our program promotes the development of the “whole child.” We utilize the creative curriculum that features exploration and discovery. The children engage in age-appropriate activities that enhance their cognitive, physical, language, and social-emotional development. The children not only experience the joy of success but have fun learning.