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Finding the home away from home

Suzanna Parpos

Some 1,000 plus days ago, I set on a journey – a search to find a place that would lovingly hold my heart while I had to physically part with it. It could not just be any place – it had to be the right fit – like a glove offering a hand protection from bitter winds – embracing it wholeheartedly – ensuring its warmth so that the hand could move freely without limitations.

This place would be my heart’s home away from home for several years. And so, with the utmost care, I set on my journey to find the preschool that would be my son’s “home” when it was time for mommy to go to work.

I knew I wanted to find a school that encompassed all I believe an educational setting should offer its students. Up until that point, it was kind of like the whole – always a bridesmaid, never the bride – thing. After a decade or so of working in education and being the teacher, it was now my turn to stand in the other pair of shoes.

From the moment I walked into Plymouth House Nursery School, I just knew. Whatever “that” feeling is that one is supposed to get, I got it. The clean, uncluttered feel of the classrooms, the vibrant colors exuding from students’ artwork hung on the walls and the abundance of natural light seeping into the windows all drew me in, but it was the staff’s demeanor – their professionalism and their dedication to the children that made me stay.  

Quality teachers possess certain character traits: patience, compassion, determination, flexibility and a good sense of humor doesn’t hurt. The teachers at Plymouth House demonstrate all these and more, and they have honed their ability to individualize the educational experience according to each child’s needs while maintaining the flow of a cohesive classroom.

They make it look easy – almost effortless – but I know as I teacher myself, it is quite the opposite. I know of the time and care it takes to plan each lesson – the art of juggling multiple personalities and abilities so that the lesson will not only meet all children’s needs but inspire them to want to extend their learning beyond the classroom.

You feel it instantly – when you walk in the front doors of the school, the tender commitment that is in the air. And then there are the two women in the front office – the pillars of the school – always there to listen – to offer their help.

Another seamless operation – and it is what one should want in a school. No matter what is going on in the surrounding environment – be it globally or in their individual worlds, consistency to be maintained for the children. I remember when I was in graduate school and completing my internship in a first grade classroom, the teacher and I were briefly pulled out of the room to be informed of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We quickly composed ourselves before returning into the classroom and resumed our lesson plans. That is what children need – consistency in their schedule – routine to give them reassurance.

And what children and their parents need is compassion as they navigate through the ups and downs of life – not just the hurdles that they are challenged with and battle to overcome, but also an understanding for the logistics of balancing the day-to-day operations in a household.

Plymouth House is the only school I have come across that provides parents the flexibility in schedule. While others are rigid in the sessions offered (i.e. a Monday, Wednesday, Friday session or a Tuesday, Thursday session), Kathie Watson, the Director, is cognizant that parents’ work schedules aren’t all made from the same cookie cutter.

This schedule flexibility has been vital for mine and many other families. It is a lot to ask of the staff and teachers. They take it in stride and always with a sincere smile on their face because above all, they are there for the children.

Erasmus said that, “The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth.” The staff and teachers take this responsibility to heart and after three years of being with them, I am feeling hopeful.

I know in the blink of an eye, the school year will be over and with the final bell, this year it won’t be, “See you in September!” Tears have already begun to fill my eyes at the thought of saying good-bye. You mean more to me than you will ever know. But I hope in some way, this thank you letter can begin to express just how amazing I think you are – you have touched the future in profound ways.

To the staff and teachers of this extraordinary place, it is with the greatest appreciation that I give thanks.

You saw my family through what is likely to be the most difficult time in our life. You did so without judgment, but rather by maintaining your firm commitment to each and every child that walks through your doors. You were unwavering in upholding the values of education that you hold so dear in your heart. You were guided by your compassion for humankind and your sincere desire to improve the lives of children and their families.

What is true for the children of your school also holds true for this mother:

In Plymouth House Nursery School, my heart was lovingly held…and I learned how to spread my wings and fly.