Alumni Spotlight: Tiana Ibarra

Tiana graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2015. She is now the Right Start Program Manager at Early Childhood Options in Dillon, Colorado, which taps into her passion for professionalizing the early childhood education field. In addition to reading her perspectives below, we encourage you to check out other innovative programs in Colorado mountain communities that are using public funding to support early childhood education.

 

Where has your journey taken you since graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

I spent two lovely years teaching 3-5 year olds at Silverthorne Elementary School, part of Summit School District. I became a mother to my little boy, Sage, on May 8, 2017. I was fortunate to be able to stay home with him for four months. Upon returning to work, I accepted a position working for Early Childhood Options. The program I manage, Right Start, is a voter-approved, tax-funded initiative, designed to improve quality, availability, and affordability of early care and learning for Summit County families. Through this initiative, I get to work on issues of recruitment and retention of quality early childhood educators and family child care providers. After completing my Master’s Degree and Teaching Certificate through the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program, it is exciting for me now to get to support other educators in Summit County who are interested in advancing their educations.

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

My current role requires me to look at a great deal of data, which has not always been my strong suit. However, the BJS TEP taught me to think outside of the box, think on a grand scale, and think like an advocate. In my short time as Program Manager, I have brought in new systems and ideas. I have also begun finding new ways of marketing the Right Start Project, and I think I built my capacity for this type of thinking during my time in the program.

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

I love that I get to be part of helping teachers feel appreciated and helping them stay in the field they love. I also enjoy that I have a great deal of flexibility in my job, as the folks I work with are very open-minded. I can bring new ideas to the table, and they are always welcomed and encouraged, which helps keep me energized and dedicated.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

By far, I’d say my favorite memory was the trip to study in Reggio Emilia, Italy. It was the first time I travelled overseas, which was thrilling, and it was also incredible to see the schools in action. Leading up to the trip, we learned about many aspects of the Reggio Approach, and experimented with translating those ideas into our various practicum settings. The trip to Reggio Emilia provided us with the opportunity to see how the educators there implemented what we had been learning about. This truly empowered and inspired me!

Tiana and her colleague Amie enjoying Lake Como, Italy, during their personal cultural study days after visiting Reggio Emilia.

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I am definitely most proud of graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program. That was the most challenging and rewarding year of my life, and sometimes I look back and cannot believe I did it. I completed the program while employed at a school in Breckenridge, which required a lot of traveling on my part. I had to stay organized, extremely focused, and take the experience one day at a time, but the program administrators and instructors were really supportive. It was crazy at times, but I feel so proud that I did it.

(left) While enrolled in the program, Tiana and her class of toddlers regularly went on excursions to explore the Breckenridge community, as shown in this photo. (right) Tiana, pictured with her husband, Justin, on her graduation day.

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

I love that I get to be part of an organization like Early Childhood Options because they are so incredibly dedicated to the community. Through this job, I feel like I’m truly making an impact on the educators, families, and children in Summit County. I also have a dream of opening my own early education center someday, and I am learning new skills every day that I believe will help me make my dream a reality. I feel like no matter my next steps, I will be better prepared because of my time with this wonderful organization.

 

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Alumni Spotlight: Kyle Mckay

Kyle graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2013. After a bit of time spent on the east coast, he moved back to Colorado, and now we are very proud to call him one of our Mentor Teachers at Boulder Journey School in Boulder, Colorado. Kyle brings energy, laughter, and passion to the school’s faculty. We invite you to check out his unique perspectives below.

Where has your journey taken you since graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

After graduating I moved to Durham, North Carolina to teach at a small private school. There I found the opportunity to grow as an educator, but the experience also gave me a much larger perspective on where my professional career should lead. The leadership style of the school I worked for did not fit well with my personal philosophy, which was very eye-opening for me. Keeping my professional goals in mind, as well as my love for the outdoors and rock climbing, I returned to Colorado, where I was hired as a Mentor Teacher at Boulder Journey School. I jumped in with both feet to work in a toddler classroom (an age much younger than my comfort level). In the fall of 2017, I began my third year with the same group of children as a Prekindergarten Teacher. The opportunity to stay with the same group of children and families for three years has been breathtakingly amazing, to say the least. Together we have built a foundation of love, trust, and development that I am positive will have a long lasting effect on both them and me. This past year, I also jumped into a new role at Boulder Journey School as the Outdoor Specialist for the entire school. This role, while new and developing, allows me to work with individual classrooms across the school to expand our collective thinking about outdoor education.

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

Before I entered the Teacher Education Program, I was a classroom teacher for six years. During those six years I certainly held a high regard for the child, their development, and being a responsive teacher, but I was only scratching the surface. While in the program, and in the years since, I have developed a much deeper understanding of early education. The lens through which I approach my teaching is now focused on observation, documentation, and continued scaffolding. Being a part of the Teacher Education Program surrounded me with philosophical conversations, rich in practice and theory, that ultimately shaped who I am as an educator today. I am slower in my practice, allow for a healthy partnership with our school’s teaching teams. I navigate my days with intention and purpose. Realizing where I was before the program and reflecting on my growth as an educator, it is obvious that the Teacher Educator Program played an integral role in my development.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

I am sure that a lot of people who go through the program will say that their favorite part was the trip to Italy. It was rich in beauty and educational dialogue, and of course had plenty of tasty meals along the way. While Italy was amazing, my favorite memory was participating in the Boulder Journey School Summer Conference. Before the conference, I was feeling mentally drained, stressed about my graduate school work, and had slumped into a sense that everything we were doing at Boulder Journey School was normal. At the conference, I was quickly reminded that what we do here is absolutely special. Hearing from my colleagues, exploring the environments of each classroom, and talking with the conference participants was simply amazing. It was as if I awoke with a new breath of energy, at exactly the time that I needed it the most!

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

Each morning I have the right to come to work and be a part of an amazing profession. I get to be present when natural developments occur, laugh and smile about silly jokes and comments, and continue to expand my own mindset about what appropriate care and education truly is. Working in my current role is also a process of trial and error, through partnering with the children in what they think, do, and say. Because of this, my own thinking simply isn’t able to become stagnant, and this really brings me the most joy of all!

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I am proudest of my own personal growth. The way that I approached working with children after receiving my undergraduate degree to now is totally different. In my professional career I have rarely said “no” to an opportunity that would bring me growth, and it has been an amazing journey. It has allowed me to teach all over this country, and most recently, I got to present the work of my classroom at the World Forum on Early Care and Education in New Zealand. I hope that my accomplishments are always growing, adapting, and flowing.

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

I am most passionate about outdoor education. I have always been a person who is the most comfortable outdoors, so I am so excited and thrilled to move my professional focus in this direction. I have loved learning and understanding how beautiful environments can be the third teacher while indoors. Now, in my role as Outdoor Specialist, I get to bring that understanding outdoors. Through this work, I hope to contribute to the research on why the outdoors are vitally important in early education. Also, moving in this direction has rejuvenated my energy and focus in my role as Mentor Teacher.

 

 

 

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Sorrell Redford

Sorrell graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2016. She is now the Pre-K/Early Childhood Director at Estes Park Elementary School, part of Estes Park School District R-3. This rural Colorado public school has an extremely diverse population, and Sorrell has used this as an opportunity to create really interesting and innovative learning experiences that involve the entire community. In addition to her perspectives, offered below, we encourage you to follow her journey via Instagram @reggio_love_colorado

Where has your journey taken you since graduating the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

Since graduating from the BJS TEP I have been on a journey to find a career that I love! During my time at Boulder Journey School I realized that I wanted to work with children in my own community. My husband and I live in the mountains outside Estes Park, and I wanted to work with children that I saw in my everyday life and children to whom I felt connected. There is only one public elementary school in Estes Park, so I set my sights on getting hired there. I went through 5 grueling interviews and was finally told that I would not be offered a job as a teacher until I gained special education experience. However, the school hired me as a special education paraprofessional, which was indeed a beneficial experience because I had not previously worked with children with special needs. Three months after I started work as a Paraprofessional, the preschool teacher quit unexpectedly, which opened the door for me to be hired for the job that I initially applied for.

I began as the Preschool Director just three months after being hired as a Paraprofessional. This is the position I am currently in, and I absolutely love it! I have a morning and afternoon class with 13 students in each, 4 days a week, with Mondays for planning. It is a public preschool program, so there is a lot to know, but I am navigating my way through Licensing, Teaching Strategies Gold and the Colorado Preschool Program. I have a huge amount of freedom. I have implemented the Reggio approach into our daily lives, and I am having so much fun with it. I re-designed the environment and am seeing the results. The children are thriving! Our program is play based and our classroom environment plays an important role in the children’s learning.

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

My education in the BJS TEP prepared me for my current role in ways I could never have foreseen. I learned that my power as an educator lies in my strengths, which I have identified as creativity and advocacy. I use these strengths every day in my career, and these were traits I did not know I possessed until my time at Boulder Journey School.

During the BJS TEP, I was encouraged to take professional risks, which helped me discover my teaching style. Advocacy is something I had not considered to be part of a teaching role until the Teacher Education Program. Learning about advocating for students, for preschool, and for yourself as a professional was very powerful. Being an advocate includes being professional and treating other teachers as professionals. Creating mutual respect between all educators is really important if you want to raise up the profession and make positive changes in education.

The BJS TEP also taught me how to bring creativity into every aspect of my career. There are many ways to view creativity. It is easy for me to be creative in the classroom, whether I am setting up provocations, designing art projects or putting up documentation, but it can be difficult for me to be creative in other, less obvious ways. For example, being able to think of creative ways to communicate and engage parents is essential, as is thinking of creative ways to reach special education students and communicate with the various specialists with whom I work. It is difficult as a teacher to take on so many responsibilities, and I feel like creativity is essential for problem solving, which is a large part of my job.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

My favorite memory from the Boulder Journey School program are from the course ECED: Introduction to Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum. During this course and at the end of a long day, I was trying to think of an engaging provocation. I decided to fill a plastic container with water, leaves, and rocks. The next morning, the children found it and turned it into a pond. The children played in the pond every day for several weeks, and I studied engagement as part of my DAC. It was incredible how the pond grew and changed. It started in a tiny container, and then grew into a larger container. The children filled it with all different materials. Some days it looked like a real pond with turtles, frogs, and leaves. Other days, they added sand and dinosaurs, and it looked like a scene from Jurassic Park. I learned so much from observing the children’s play in the pond. It was a sensory experience, it encouraged empathy, it encouraged social play, it created opportunities for imagination, it provoked sharing, and through this play children built friendships.

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

The children bring me so much joy! Every day there are special moments where my heart feels full, and I don’t think I would feel this way in any other profession. Last week I watched a 5 year old girl cleaning the face of one of the 3 year old special education students. It was such a gentle and kind exchange, and it made me remember why children are so amazing. They don’t judge each other or label each other. My students remind me to be a kind person, and I think working with children makes me a better person, more reflective and less judgmental. The children also make me laugh, even when I am feeling frustrated, sad, or exhausted, which is pretty wonderful!

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I am extremely proud of completing my Master’s Degree and then pursuing a career in early education. I use what I learned through my Master’s everyday, and that is a really great feeling. I am especially proud of how professional I am when communicating with families. I have to interview every family who applies for a preschool space at my school to make sure they are eligible for public preschool. I have to ask difficult some questions. I have had conversations about why families moved from Mexico to Estes Park, I have had conversations with parents who use drugs, and I have had conversations with openly racist families. However, I am proud of how the BJS TEP prepared me for this, and I am constantly thinking back to all I learned in the course EDFN 5010: Social Foundations and Cultural Diversity in Urban Education. I also think back to the 100 Languages of Children and how this relates to parents, not just children. It helps me look at situations from parents’ points of view and try to understand their situation, which can be very challenging, but also very rewarding.

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

I am currently working on transforming our playground into a natural outdoor classroom, which I am very excited about. Our playground is currently an old plastic structure which has been vandalized. I believe the children deserve a higher quality environment, so I met with my Principal and the Head of Maintenance to present my ideas. I was very nervous, and to prepare, I researched playground safety, maintenance, and cost. I successfully persuaded them that a fully natural playground was the direction to go, and they gave me the go-ahead to have the old playground torn out and to begin working on creating a new one made of wood and stone. I have applied for two very large grants, and I should hear about them very soon. I am also involving students in the design of the new playground, and the company who will hopefully be installing and helping design the new playground is the Natural Playgrounds Company. They are amazing!