Since 2011, CMEE has partnered with Long Island Head Start to provide comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income and at-risk children and their families at the Museum. What makes Head Start at CMEE so successful is the guidance and leadership of the phenomenal early childhood educators. Recently, we spoke with Dave Davis about his experience as a Head Start teacher while he was getting his classroom ready for the new school year.
The Children’s Museum of the East End is 1 of 2 museums in the nation to serve as a Head Start Center. What impact do you think the Museum has on your students?
The Museum’s impact has truly been remarkable for our students and their families, without a doubt. The ability to take the learning experience beyond the classroom, and utilize the various facilities, both indoors and out, has increased the number of “Aha!” moments exponentially.
Positioning simulated spaces such as the farm market, ice cream shop and fire station only steps away from a huge pirate ship, allows our children the ability to explore not only “real life” spaces where they can engage one another in dramatic play, but also indulge their imaginations with dress-up in a fantasy world of long ago. It’s clearly a unique opportunity for growth that we feel blessed to witness on a regular basis.
How does the Museum influence your teaching?
As the teaching team creates lesson plans each week, the Museum allows us to go above and beyond the normal confines and restricted space limitations of a typical classroom. Whether it ’s developing gross-motor skills in the padded “tumble room” or practicing their mastery of sorting techniques utilizing the vegetable and fruit bins; each of the beautifully created spaces serves not only as a fun place to play for the children but doubles as a skill-gauging function for the teaching staff to employ. This is an important factor, as each child is wired differently, with varying degrees of confidence and abilities.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?
In our specific region out here on the East End of Long Island, many of the students in our program speak Spanish. Some of our preschoolers have older siblings, and therefore have exposure to English being spoken in their home. Others who don’t are acquiring it for the first time in our preschool setting, so the learning curve may typically be delayed or altered a bit.
Additionally, many of the parents in our program tend to work in service-related fields, requiring much physical labor, time and energy on their part. Depending upon the family’s dynamics at home; finding quality time for reinforcing what’s needed, is often challenging.
Why did you decide to become an early childhood educator?
After nearly a 20 year career in the field of marketing research, working in several small, boutique firms (the last of which was absorbed by a much larger international entity), the dynamics within had changed so dramatically that I chose not only to leave the company but the industry altogether.
Not long afterwards, a dear friend of mine approached me with a unique situation at the public school in Westchester County where she worked as a speech therapist; thinking that I’d be a “perfect fit” as she put it. The position entailed working in various capacities with special needs students, and it didn’t take long until I’d found my calling moving forward. That my mother was a beloved nursery school teacher in the small town that I was raised might have been a contributing factor too!
What’s your favorite memory working with children at Head Start?
I wouldn’t say that there has been one specific memory that stands out; it has been much more of a cumulative experience for me. Entering the classroom each day, leaving my “other life” outside; opens the door to endless possibilities on any given day, not only for students, but myself included.
Preschoolers are at that magical age of discovery, so if you can put yourself in a position of enabling them to explore and experience life through learning; those opportunities become instant memories in my book.
How did you spend your summer vacation?
For those not familiar with my “other life” outside of teaching, much of it is spent writing in several different medium; each with a goal of making the world just a little bit better. Two columns that I wrote this summer address the topic of “inclusion,” and will appear in the September issue of a regional publication called the East End Beacon newspaper.
I am also in the process of developing a new web-TV series titled, Calling All Angels, and had the opportunity to lay some of the groundwork necessary on a recent trip to Hollywood in early August. In between all of that, I did my best to connect with the beautiful surf and sand out in Montauk.