RVCP offers a multi-age environment, with two teachers in the classroom, which enables us to meet the developmental needs of the children through authentic and meaningful relationships and activities. As children play and build relationships with each other and the grown-ups, they practice a variety of skills in which they experience both the role of expert and learner. All decisions that we make as teachers start with the child at the center. Our image of the child is one who is complete, good, competent, powerful, creative, intelligent, inquisitive, enterprising, rooted in culture, empathic, cooperative, resilient and perseverant. Our planning and reflections are built on the belief that children are exactly where they need to be and doing exactly what they need to be doing in this moment in time, and that they can accomplish what they are capable of doing, alone and with others. Our work begins with the unconditional acceptance of our children exactly where they are.
Julie Zindle | Over the last 17 years of working in many models of Early Childhood Education, I’ve discovered what appeals to me most about the co-op model, and RVCP in particular is that we—children, parents, and teachers—are all contributing and learning together. Because the family is the young child’s first and most important teacher, and because RVCP is truly a family-centered program, I am better equipped to understand, plan for and support children as they begin this initial entry into the larger world outside of home. I feel passionately about offering children a place where it is safe to be all of who they are – their funniest charming self and their most fearful angry self. Here is where they get to practice the skills that will support them, as they become problem solvers, friends, and members of a community.
I find the title of “Teacher” to be a very ill-fitting descriptor of the work I do at Rainier Valley Co-op. The terms: “Learner” “Team Member” “Supporter” are closer to reality because we truly are a community of learners. All of us, adults and children alike, show up each day to grow and strengthen who we are in our roles and in our lives. As a parent I lurch and stumble, and occasionally even glide along, but being a member of such a supportive and caring community has helped me to remember that each challenge is an opportunity for reflection, addressing a need, learning a new skill, and/or deepening a relationship.
Cecelia Linsley | Both of my children have been very shy and slow to warm to strangers, especially when they were very young. With my first, there were people who would ask me, “What’s wrong with her?” And I would think, “Really?! NOTHING is wrong with her!” So it was a relief to start at RVCP where she was accepted for who and what she was/is. No one thought it was strange at all that she wouldn’t talk to an adult for the first year. Her need to get comfortable at her own pace was recognized and supported not just by the teachers but by every adult in the classroom. And that’s where my love and passion for RVCP began. I love that every child gets to be their own true self. Even though when I started as a parent I had no idea how it would work, I love that we don’t make kids share or say they’re sorry. I love that being at our preschool has made me a better parent. Now, as a teacher at our preschool, I am loving how our low child to adult ratio lets me get to know each child and build a relationship with them. I am loving that I get the opportunity to discover what challenges each child, what engages them, what makes them light up. I love that moment when a child does something unexpected or has a breakthrough of some kind and I catch another grown-up’s eye (Julie’s, Lauren’s, or a working grown-up’s) and yeah, they saw it, too! We have something pretty darn special going on here at RVCP and I am grateful to be a part of it.
Lauren Graham | I first came to RVCP as a parent and found the philosophy, community, and parent education to be invaluable to my family. As a teacher, I value the work that we do at RVCP because we have an environment where all children and grown-ups belong. I love that every kid gets to be an active participant in our community by solving problems, bringing new ideas, and by showing us what they need to feel safe and grow. I want kids to feel supported at school. When kids are able to independently explore our space and interact with peers they are their most curious, creative, and thoughtful selves. I find so much joy in watching kids work hard to master a difficult skill and feel proud of their work. Most of all, I feel grateful every day to be able work with a talented team of teachers, engaged parents, and amazing kids.