I have over 25 years of experience in the field of early childhood education, both as a classroom teacher and a program director.

I studied at the University of Illinois and received my B.S. Degree in Human Development & Family Ecology in 1988. (This is a very long name for a degree in child development and family studies with an emphasis on children from birth to five.)

I began my career in Rockford, Illinois where my first role was teaching in a special needs classroom. Soon after, I became the assistant director of a day care center and later I licensed other day care homes to provide options for the parents of special needs children. My role grew to become a full-time Inclusion and Behavior Specialist for a three-county area. I was grateful for this chance to visit and learn from so many different programs and wonderful teachers. I learned the important lesson that there is more than one way to run a successful classroom, and that success is reached when individual teachers are able to respect the diverse needs and interests of the children in their care.

Eight years into my career, my personal life took a dramatic detour and I re-located to Berlin, Germany. In early 1996, I became the director of the American Embassy Association’s Child Care Program. The American Embassy was still not fully staffed there, and was in a transition period. Thus, our program was open to anyone interested in having an American preschool experience. I had the unique opportunity to interact with families and teachers from a variety of cultures (American, German, Russian, Italian, Australian, and Canadian, to name a few), but I also had to clarify my definition of what an “American-style” early childhood program could and should provide for its young members.

I moved back to the US and worked as a program director of a private pre-school program in the San Diego area. I struggled with some of the changes that seemed to have occurred in child care while I was in Germany. There seemed to be a focus on trying to make the childcare experience more like attending elementary school. The shift away from time to explore freely and learn through play appeared to conflict with teaching the values to children that I held so dear. As director, I found this balance to be my largest challenge.

I moved to Seattle in 2004, and was back teaching in the classroom to further develop these skills on the ground floor. I was extremely fortunate to find an early childhood program that would allow me the freedom to develop my own curriculum as I met the needs of the individual children in my classroom. For almost seven years, I worked primarily in a mixed-age pre-K program. Along with a creative co-teacher, I worked full days with eighteen to twenty children, ages three to five.

I attended a Peace Leadership Training by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in 2012, I was inspired to begin working as a peace advocate as well.

In 2013, I began creating a nonviolence curriculum in partnership with Azim Khamisa, Founder of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation and President and CEO of the Children’s Safety Network. The 5 Building Blocks to a Peaceful World: A Peacemaking and Problem Solving Program for Young Children adapts TKF’s 6 Key Messages to meet the needs of our youngest learners.It is a peace generating and violence prevention program that is solution-oriented. The pilot program will begin Spring 2014. If you are interested in learning more about this program, becoming a “Building Blocks” location, helping with our research efforts, or supporting us in any way, please contact us here.

We will be discussing our collaboration during the Visionary Changemakers Teleseries on February 25, 5:00 Pacific. We’d be honored if you would join us!