A warrior for education
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing am amazing woman that simply has to be included in my "Women who are changing the world" features. Christina Miller, owner, operator and creative force driving a fresh approach to early education at An Apple A Day Academy in Sarasota, FL. Full disclosure, my daughter has been a student of AADA since the early years and we simply couldn't be happier with her little green school. I just can't say enough wonderful things about this school, approach to learning and staff.
Christina is equal parts kind, compassionate, creative and innovative as well as, fierce, spunky and hilarious. She is unafraid and unwavering in her goals of creating a better world for our kids. She is a warrior for early education of our kids and is making huge ripples in the field of early education. She sees that our future is directly tied to the our children's future (even though many seem to forget this fact) and strives to do her part to foster their futures.
Read below to see her story and her future plans for education.
1) Give us a little of your background. Who are you? What is your life like? How long have you been working in early childhood development?
My name is Christina Miller, I am the owner, creator and operator of An Apple a Day Academy. I have been working in ECE (Early Childhood Education) for a little over 15 years, what started out as a way to stay close to my children due to my own fears and concerns with the facilities I had visited to possible enroll my children in ended up being a career for me and a labor of love.
My life is full, full of dirty laundry, dirty dishes....etc. but no, in all seriousness I live a joyful life with its ups and downs, but thankfully I'm surrounded by wonderful people and definitely an amazing little family. I have become a professional juggler, juggling life to the best of my abilities keeping in mind that I do it all for my kids, the ones I birthed and the ones under my care.
2) Tell us about Reggio inspired learning. Why did you choose that style of teaching?
(What is Reggio inspired learning you ask? Click the link to find out more
I was always a green school and I was looking for a teaching approach that made sense with our Green practices, keeping in mind that it had to compliment and enhance our holistic like school community. I was struggling between Waldorf and Montessori during that time I had a wonderful conversation with Joanne Whitney, which at the time was not part of our AADA team, but just a grandma attending her grandbabies Preschool Graduation. After our wonderful conversation it just made sense that this was indeed the approach AADA and our students needed. I had never really paid attention to Reggio philosophies but I really wish I had, so many light bulbs turned on that day.
3) What made you choose a non standard (by American standards) way of teaching?
It just made sense, and paired well with our already diverse, holistic, and ecofriendly green school.
4) What is the most important thing about teaching for you?
That we make a difference in a child's life, that they feel loved, nurtured and heard, and then hopefully creating a ripple effect making a big wave of much needed change.
5) How did your amazing school come about? What is the story behind it?
By being THAT mom... who saw that there was a need for quality care, by knowing that there is more to child care than just a safe place, that small children need to feel they are going to another home away from their home.
But if you ask me to pinpoint the moment in time where I said, ENOUGH.... it started out with a case of mersa infection that was not disclosed at a facility I worked for, by random chance my husband found out about it as he saw a sign at his primary care doctor door stating, children from such and such facility enter through the back door, he then finds out why and calls me, asking me, "honey is mersa bad?" Well long story short, I approach my then boss and was told not to say a word to any of the families or I would lose my job. I knew it was wrong to not disclose this information so I told as many people as I could and I put in my resignation and I opened a licensed home daycare and it evolved into the beautiful school it is today.
6) What are some of your favorite teaching experiences?
Ha, so many, but my favorites moments are those I get to walk in, do a little dance and giggle with these little humans who are incredible and I know it's going to sound so cliché but these little people will be our future, so why not have fun.
7) You are making huge strides with early childhood education. What is your next step?
We are continuing to grow and with such growth giving me an opportunity to enhance our program with more experiences and opportunities for our students, team and families.
8) What advice do you have for parents searching for schools for their kids?
Go with your GUT! Keep in mind that just because it was a good fit for your friends it does not necessarily mean it is the right fit for yours. There is no wrong or right way of operating a preschool (well..... maybe there is), but there is a wrong and a right for every family.
CHECK the inspections provided by DCF they have to be posted in an area visible to all adults and families (ours is next to our entrance-we keep about 3 years posted) you would be surprised.
9) If you were able to sit down with education policy makers to discuss education standards and teaching skills, what is the top thing that you would tell them?
I'd like to just give them a hug and make them watch Mr. Rodgers with me and perhaps just perhaps they would see a key element missing in our children's education.... and that is Love!
Thank you so much Christina for taking the time out of your crazy day to do this interview! And for those of you interested in learning more about this wonderful little Green school, please check out their website http://www.anappleadayacademy.com/
And stay tuned as this amazing philosophy of learning reaches into elementary education through "The Learning Village" (website soon coming).