April 19, 2017

Bees and Hippos and Children, Oh My!

Alex (class of '16), Caroline, Ellia (class of '13)
Pop quiz: Which Friends’ School staff member ran her own summer camp program when she was ten years old and lost a five year old in the Hippo House at the zoo?

At age ten, she and her older, more mature friend (age 13) started their own summer camp in Philadelphia.  They took kids from ages 3-5, and spent the summer with them taking them to the park, swimming in the friend’s family’s pool, and inspiring them with arts and crafts projects. One memorable day the group was chased by a swarm of bees in the park, but all’s well that ends well.
And the child was found unharmed by the hungry hippos.
It makes perfect sense that this long-time Friends’ parent, whom we hired to join our staff a year ago, is none other than our Director of Preschool, AfterCare and Summer Camp, Caroline Holland. 
She has been groomed for this role from an early age!
Caroline’s first experience with Friends’ was in 1995, when she observed our play- based preschool as part of her continuing education teacher certification program.  Upon entering the classroom, she realized this was what she calls “truly an extraordinary place”.  The sense of joy, levity and engagement in the classroom was very inspiring.  She found the same to be true many years later when she began a preschool search for her own children.  The genuine respect the teachers give to the children and their devotion to educating the whole child completely aligned with her own beliefs about teaching.
Fast forward many years: Caroline’s daughter Ellia graduated from Friends’ in 2013 and her son Alex finished 5th grade last year in 2016, the same year Caroline was hired.
Caroline picked Friends’ School for her own children because she understood that the teachers here know what is best for the whole child. She sees their true dedication to wanting children to be self-actualized.
Caroline says that the growth mindset that we advocate for so strongly at this school has helped both her and her kids. “I have had the opportunity to continue to grow my brain through my work at Friends’!” she told me. She appreciates the culture here that makes it feel safe to take risks.  That culture helps children, and even parents, to try challenges, to experience failure, and to pick themselves up.

Caroline has a BA in sociology from Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, outside Richmond.   She is Montessori Lead Certified through the Montessori Education Center for the Rockies. She was first attracted to Montessori education because of its appreciation for individuality and its ultimate respect for the child. She sees the same thing with her preschool team of teachers at Friends’.
As a parent at Friends’ for so many years, Caroline always had the impression of how hard the teachers worked.  Now, as an insider, she understands how much harder they work than she ever realized, how committed to their profession they are, and how they continue to grow their skills.  Lifelong learning is not just a clichĂ©.

Last year was Caroline’s first year directing our summer program.  Coached by long-time director Kathy Sherwood, Caroline is glad we offer summer opportunities to children of such a wide age range, ages 3-14. Her previous school had no summer camp option.  She is grateful that Friends’ meet our families’ needs and that kids get to try so many different things.
As Director of AfterCare, she feels fortunate to have such a great staff, and she loves when parents tell her how much they love seeing the staff playing and interacting with the children.
And we feel fortunate that Caroline has continued her relationship with our school in such a meaningful way.
Even with all of her multiple roles here at Friends’, Caroline assures me that she’s constantly on the look out for bees.  She also learned her lesson long ago – always count the children in your care.  As far as I know, she has never lost a child in the Hippo House since she was ten. 

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