Three teachers help shape young minds

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By Kirsten Laskey

They may live in different communities, have different backgrounds, but Diane Jenkins, Barbara Cruz and Jennifer Moss are united in one purpose; teaching the newest generation of students.

In recognition of these three teachers’ work to accomplish this mission, Little Forest Playschool staff honored its employees during the annual corporation meeting May 15. They each received a plaque and a flower.

“(I’m) just proud to receive that plaque,” Jenkins said. She added she is happy to work with the children, and their parents.

“I was honored,” Cruz said, “very honored. It made me feel good … it was really an honor.”

Moss said, “It was nice. It is always nice to have someone say thank you for a job well done.”

Jenkins started working at the school in the early 1990s. Previously, she worked at the Eight Northern Indian Pueblo Council for the Head Start Program for three years.

Jenkins explained she was invited to Little Forest for an exchange program and while she was at the school, the director asked her if she was interested in a teaching position. Jenkins remembers replying, “why not?”

“I just love working here,” Jenkins said.

An ad for a teaching position at Little Forest caught Cruz’s attention nine years ago. She said she was working in Santa Fe when she saw the ad for a teaching position and thought she would apply and give it a try.

“When I got here, I loved it so much, I never left,” Cruz said.

Moss began teaching at the school when her daughter was 3. Since then, Moss has worked about 24 years at Little Forest.

“I enjoy being with the children …. having a sense of community in the classroom; getting to know families, being a part of a team with my co-workers and friends. And I also enjoy the flexibility of the schedule and teaching part-time,” Moss said.

The school is different from others, Cruz said. “I guess just the way the classrooms are setup,” she explained.

Additionally, through the parent cooperative program, parents play an active role in the school. Cruz said parents can come into the classroom to read stories, share their hobbies, help with maintenance and other activities.

Moss added parents also serve on the board and contribute to fundraising activities. For instance, parents pitch in during the two annual resales the school hosts.

“One of our outstanding aspects is that parents are a part of the school,” she said. “That’s very important for the students and for the school.”

The school has also focused on its physical environment. Jenkins said two classrooms have been renovated and the other two are awaiting improvements. She added the playground features new equipment.

It’s not just the school’s appearance that makes it attractive; Moss said she is also impressed with the curriculum. She described the curriculum as “developmentally based non-academic. “We learn by doing, building, cooking,” Moss said.

The curriculum is also age-appropriate and geared for all levels of learning.

“(Students) should be able to work and play at their own level,” she said.

While construction upgrades and involved parents are important, all three teachers said the students are the best part of their jobs.

“The students,” Jenkins said. “The activities I perform with them (are my favorite part of the job). It’s different each week. It’s just funny how they construct their activities together.”

Moss said her favorite part of being a teacher is, “My relationships and friendships with the students, their families and my co-workers.”

“I enjoy working with children,” Cruz said. “Every day is new; every day is different.”

The kids will say things that just make her laugh or smile, she said.

In addition to the students, the teachers have each other. “We all work together,” Jenkins said. “We help each other when needed.”

Outside the classroom, the teachers honor other interests. A resident of the San Idelfonso Pueblo, Jenkins calls herself a “self-taught artist,” she is a potter and a painter and is learning to weave.

Cruz, who lives in the San Juan Pueblo, is a reader. She said she also loves to watch movies and eat out in restaurants. In fact, Cruz said if she wasn’t a teacher, she would be a food critic.

Reading is also a love of Moss, who lives in Los Alamos. She also loves to work in the garden, travel and spend time with friends.

To any new teachers who might join Jenkins, Cruz and Moss at Little Forest Playschool, Jenkins offers some advice. “If they’re going to be in that field,” she said, “Speak at the young child’s level (and) always keep an eye on them.”

Also, “always give a smile; never bring your problems to school.”