Meet Cassy, the preschool teacher with a passion for teaching Santa Monica’s youngest

Preschool teacher Cassy is warm. She’s playful. She has an easy way about her. Within minutes of meeting her, it’s evident why kids — and parents — might immediately gravitate to her. She’s also passionate about her work with children, and that passion helps get kids ready for kindergarten — one of Santa Monica’s top priorities.

You can find Cassy on any day of the week at Franklin Elementary School Preschool. Children ages 3 to 5 file in to her classroom and begin the day with small activities, like washing their hands and writing their names. From there, the children might join Cassy in singing and dancing, or listening to her read some of her favorite books: Knuffle Bunny, The Giving Tree, or anything by Dr. Seuss.

Now, if you’re old enough to read this, all those activities might seem simple, but they’re actually crucial stepping stones in a young child’s development. Not only are they providing the foundation for lifelong learning, they’re also encouraging thousands of new brain connections that help accelerate a child’s social, physical, intellectual, and emotional development.

Learning to Learn

One of Cassy’s biggest goals is to get each child to walk away from preschool well-socialized and respectful of others — social strengths that will serve them well throughout their school years and into their adult lives.

Cassy also wants kids to feel that it’s okay to not know all the answers — and the fun that can be had with finding them out. She teaches this by example, readily admitting when she doesn’t know the answer to a question, and then letting kids in on the process of investigating. This instills in them the skill of learning — a skill that will help propel them through their academic careers.

Another way she encourages the skill of learning? By letting the kids take ownership:

“I like to always take their lead and find out different things that they’re interested in, and then we use that to come up with projects.” This sense of ownership empowers children and encourages them to take an intellectual interest in the world around them.

Freedom in Education

Talking to Cassy, it becomes evident that the sense of ownership she gives her students is the same sense of ownership Santa Monica gives its preschool teachers. She emphasizes that the city requires certain standards be met, but that educators are also encouraged to track with their kids and tailor their teaching to meet specific needs.

“I think that’s a good thing about our preschool program — they give us guidelines, but they also allow the teachers to take the lead depending on where their students are. So you’re able to be creative and you’re not stuck in this box.”

The Preschool Transition

As a mother, Cassy knows how anxiety-inducing it can be to drop your kids off at preschool for the first time. But she also believes it’s one of the best steps a child and parent can take. Exposing your kids early on to new situations and actively encouraging their socialization will help give them the tools they need to succeed in life.

And she says that what you do at home matters too. Engage your child with talking, with singing, and with dancing. All of this will help encourage their development.

Parents can also download the Building Blocks For Kindergarten toolkit.  This toolkit provides guidelines to help get your child kindergarten-ready, which means developing social, emotional, and motor skills in those all-important first five years.