Teachers, Beginnings Learning CenterA main component of the preschool program at Beginnings Learning Center, on South 10th Street in Philadelphia, involves a coordinated effort among the Center's art teacher, Erin Young, the literacy teacher, Jeff Rahman, and the music and movement teacher, Liv Helgesen. Erin Young graduated from the University of the Arts in 2007 with degrees in painting and art education. Now teaching preschoolers, she is a long way from her expectations of teaching high school students. "I'm surprised at how much I like this and at how much they can do and how much they can remember! They are growing so much!" Erin also notes that the growth of these very young minds lends itself to more accelerated learning. "If we look at a book about, say, René Magritte or Kara Walker, or whomever—they get it. They get the concepts. It's very satisfying." Erin is also an artist, although she doesn't have the time to spend on her painting that she would like. Nevertheless, being an artist brings something to her classroom style. "If you're making things, you can understand what the kids are going through when they're making things. If they have problems representing something they have in their heads, you can sympathize with that." Jeff Rahman is completing his fifth year as a teacher, having worked in preschool, kindergarten, and second grade; this is his first year at Beginnings Learning Center. "It's interesting to see the kids, because this is my first year teaching in a city. They don't know as much about some things, such as plants, but they do know about, for example, fire trucks—because they have seen them pass by. It's always interesting to me to see how different their lives are and what they notice." Although his background is more rounded in all elementary curricular areas, he works at Beginnings as the literacy specialist. "We have a literacy curriculum here, and my role has been to incorporate this curriculum into their daily experiences. And as the year has gone on and I've become more comfortable, I've been finding ways to incorporate the literacy into what happens in the art room and in the movement and music area—so that it becomes more meaningful to them." Liv Helgesen completes this trio of educators, also enjoying the end of her first year at Beginnings. "I graduated from the University of the Arts in 2007—the same year as Erin. I was a printmaking major, and I'm currently an active artist, teaching here, working on a book, and looking to further my education." Liv's book seems as diverse as her background. "This will be a book about facing your fears, but it will have music. We [Liv and her boyfriend] are making the music to include. As you turn the page the song will change—it's still in the works." So what is a printmaker/author doing teaching music and movement? "I had just returned from Norway and was looking for work. I had worked with children often, and found this position to be a challenge. We do a lot of outside activities, such as gardening. We also learned about the Olympics, and practiced skiing, for example. For movement, we work on hand-eye coordination, developing finger [dexterity] through activities like trying to tie and untie knots."
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