The Lark is a ground bird with long hind claws, providing stability. Which when you think about it, is a perfect analogy for Larks Preschool. Bridget has had the pleasure of working with so many Denver kids over the years, providing them with the stability and tools they need before heading off to Kindergarten. We had the pleasure of learning more about her important work right here in Wash Park.
We’ve known many families who have had their kids start with you at Larks, and now they’re headed to college. Tell us how Larks Preschool came to be.
I started working with children when I was 18 years old and I loved it, but when I started college I was a music theater major, finally switching to psychology and sociology. I worked as a nanny all through college and continued to work in the evenings babysitting when I had my catering company. Yep. I ran a bakery for 1 year which led to catering gigs. I ran my own catering company for 4 years, but I returned to my first love, working with children, and was still nannying part time when I got my first teaching position. After a brief 6 months working in special education as an assistant, my teaching journey began in earnest in 2000.
Colorado just started the “Alternative Licensure Program” through UCD. I applied, was accepted, and began an intense year teaching and studying at the Boulder Journey School and The University of Colorado. I had found my happy place. Working with children has become a lifelong passion. There is so much joy and laughter in what I do!!!
My husband Sean who is now a school psychologist, helped launch Larks almost 20 years ago. At the time, I was teaching at the Denver Cooperative Preschool and started running “play groups” on the weekends. Host families would get free attendance in exchange for hosting the groups of up to 10 kids at their home. The play groups were so popular I was turning away families and adding evenings. Sean suggested we look for a place of our own to host these play groups. My immediate thought was to say “no.” I wasn’t interested in running a business again (having shut down my catering company a few years before). He just smiled and nodded and promptly began looking into properties, researching building codes, zoning regulations, health codes, fire codes. One day, he drove me past 730 South Logan Street, and everything shifted in my heart and mind. I knew right away that this was going to be our new school. I loved the kid-height windows and how bright and sunny it was. It also met zoning regulations, building codes, health codes, and fire codes. It was the perfect place to open a boutique preschool.
Sean and I were both working multiple jobs at the time, but we purchased the property (built in 1910) in August of 2004 and began the remodel. We labored day and night to make this little cottage the perfect preschool. In November of 2004 we opened our doors.
I like to joke that the first 2 years were a bit of a blur since we also had a child in December of 2005. But honestly, I couldn’t have done it without the incredible families at Larks. Even though I had been working with children for more than 20 years, parenting a child was a completely different experience! To say it was humbling is putting it mildly. The know-it-all Ms. Bridget learned a lot from the amazing Larks families and to this day I consider it my duty to give back. I constantly ask myself: How can we be a resource for families? What can I study, learn, and understand about child development that will benefit our families? And: what can I learn from these remarkable families that will make me a better teacher? A better director? A better citizen?
People often ask me where the name comes from, and I love to share its origins. While attending graduate school to get my teacher’s license I wrote a paper about what I thought would be the perfect classroom environment. What does that look like? To me, it would be play based, open exploration, collaboration, child directed but teacher guided. I am also fascinated with language and love to identify what groups of animals are called (a dazzle of zebras, a smack of jellyfish for example). I concluded that a successful classroom was a joyful classroom: like an exaltation of larks.
At Larks, we are always working to build a community around the school. Family dinners were important in my family growing up and we love our mealtimes at Larks. Coming together to share a meal and conversation while practicing our “big kid manners” is important at Larks. We build community with the children while sharing a meal together.
As I mentioned, the incredible moms, dads, grandparents, families that supported me during the early years of parenting were a resource I couldn’t have thrived without, and I work to maintain a sense of community at Larks. We have monthly play dates in parks and when possible monthly family dinners, too!
I feel incredibly blessed to be doing what I love for so many years. I have found my passion! I have also found three of the most incredible teachers to complete my team. They have all been with me for years, they are all licensed early childhood experts and they love to laugh.
Your philosophy is play-based and language rich. Can you explain what the Reggio-Emilia based principles look like?
To me a Reggio-inspired school is play-based, with open exploration and collaboration. It is child-directed but teacher-guided, with a focus on language development. You often hear adults tell children to “use their words” but what does that mean exactly? We work directly with the children to help them learn the words and the sentences they need to navigate the classroom environment. This translates to success in other areas as well.
At Larks we have a strong image of the child as competent and resourceful. We believe that children should be active participants in their education. We also value creating a strong sense of community that includes the children, teachers and families.
Documenting the children’s experience every day is also an important part of our school. We take notes and photographs that record what both the students and the teachers are learning together at Larks. These stories and images are posted around the school, sent home in weekly newsletters, and shared during our parent evenings.
What is the best advice you can offer parents of young children as we all try to thrive during a pandemic.
I’m going to quote a nurse we had when our son was young. “Peace in the family… what do you need to do for peace in the family?” And this will mean different things for different families. I think what we talk about when we talk about building community at Larks can be helpful for families, too: build and maintain community, eat dinner together, help each other. How can I be of service?
Do you have a favorite memory that stands out from the last seventeen years?
The first thing I think of is laughter. We laugh heartily and we laugh often. My favorite memories?
A child says to her mommy on the last day of school: you know, mom? Ms. Bridget and I are going to be friends forever.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from working with children?
Be kind. Don’t hold grudges. Help each other. It’s okay that waiting is hard.
How do you spend your free time when you’re not running Larks?
I love spending time with my family and my animals. Hiking, traveling, reading and crossword puzzles. I am also a great cook if I do say so myself and love to share my baking with my neighbors.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Bridget! As many of you know, selecting the right preschool is very personal. To learn more about the Larks philosophy, visit larkspreschool.com