THIS MONTH'S WINNER: Allegra Hudson – The Solel Preschool
NOMINATED BY: Arianna Doherty
What made you want to be a teacher?
I grew up in Huntington Beach and had a really rough childhood in some ways. I was expected to do a lot in my household, driving my sisters and brother to school and to practices. I had a lot of responsibility given to me at a young age.
I couldn’t go away to college, so I went to community college while working part-time at an after-school program. I had a son when I was 21, and when he was three I enrolled him in a co-op preschool. I met amazing families there, it was really guided toward building a community where our kids could thrive. I was inspired by that, the idea of slowing down and being present with children. So I decided to go full force toward education.
Jewish heritage and fostering a positive Jewish identity are a big part of Solel. Tell us how you do that?
In Judaism, family and tradition are very important. I’m not Jewish, but I was welcomed with open arms, no questions asked. One big aspect is teaching the children how to celebrate the earth. The belief is that we have one earth that has been given to us, and we have to learn how to take care of it.
We observe many traditions and holidays. A lot of Judaism includes the entire family. The Seders and celebrations include children, and we teach the children about the traditions. The kids can pick flowers and bring them in to help set the table in the classroom. No real candles, that might end badly, but we do have pretend candles that we use. My class is just getting verbal, and the kids learn to recite prayers, which I think is amazing.
What sort of teaching style do you use with preschoolers?
I follow the teachings of a lot of different educational styles, but I tend to gravitate toward a Montessori or a Waldorf school. I truly believe that if you put something in a child’s hands and they can feel it, mold it, and really connect with it, the concept will go into their brain easier. Sensory play is important at this age. Let them get messy, or stand up and learn, or possibly go outdoors.
Singing is a good one! We sing songs in our class, including in Spanish and Hebrew. Music can change a child’s demeanor. As soon as we start singing, there’s not enough room on the circle time mat. They all want to be a part of it.
My goal is really to help children achieve independence and confidence. Part of getting there is giving kids respect. Give their words and feelings weight and listen to what they are saying.
Do you use experiences from your own life with the kids?
One example I use is my sister. I have a twin sister, along with a younger sister and brother. A rule in our house was we had to be enrolled in a physical activity. I chose field hockey, and my younger siblings chose soccer. My twin, who has autism, chose ballet. What’s funny is out of all of us, she had the most success. She was one of the first African-American prima ballerinas to get into the Juilliard School on a full-ride scholarship!
This helped shape the way I teach and it’s a lesson I use for my kids. Sometimes, you need to look at the bigger picture. It’s not always about winning the title. A lot of the time, life is about experience and the journey.