Educators Nancy Simpson and Kara Thompson have strong roots at Sheridan. They both graduated from the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program and have been working as instructors at Sheridan child care centres for a combined 55 years. They are leaders in an environment that thrives on collaboration and firmly believe in the words of the late Nelson Mandela: it takes a village to raise a child.
In addition to serving as staff at the Trafalgar-based Sheridan Child Care Centre, Simpson and Thompson mentor/supervise student teachers on placement from Sheridan’s ECE program. Placements provide an opportunity for current students to get practical experience, as well as observe and be mentored by veterans of the practice. “We work as a team,” says Thompson. “We learn as much from the student teachers as they learn from us.” Simpson adds: “They add great diversity to the classroom. Each one comes to us with their own experiences and ideas.”
“They [student teachers] add great diversity to the classroom. Each one comes to us with their own experiences and ideas” – Nancy Simpson
Based on the High/Scope Philosophy born out of Perry Elementary School in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the curriculum at the centre is founded on play-based, student-directed learning. “Activities are an extension of the children’s interests,” explains Simpson. Their classrooms are set up with developmentally-appropriate materials that challenge children to use their creativity and imagination. Although there are established routines like meal time, outdoor play or a field trip to campus next door, the philosophy promotes flexibility and choice.
Perhaps some of the most important activities at the centre are ones that help develop children’s social-emotional intelligence. “Problem solving and critical thinking are important for children to learn,” says Thompson, “and in order for them to develop these skills, they need to have a solid base in social/emotional development, which is an integral part of our focus here.” Modeling compassion, empathy and celebrating individuality in interactions with the children are important pieces in that development, and help create a positive energy in the centre.
“Problem solving and critical thinking are important for children to learn” – Kara Thompson
Caring for and educating children during this crucial developmental stage is a big responsibility that requires endless amounts of energy and enthusiasm. Simpson and Thompson agree that they wouldn’t have remained in their roles for so long without a lot of passion, a large dose of patience, a sense of humour and a strong team of colleagues. They are also rewarded daily with kind words from parents, appreciation from student teachers, admiration from the children and visits from graduates of the centre.
Throughout their decades of dedication to child care, Simpson and Thompson have played a significant role in maintaining the positive reputation of the Sheridan Child Care Centre. That reputation extends beyond the Oakville community: the centre has welcomed visitors from around the world who made the trip to see an exemplary High/Scope school. While their individual achievements should be lauded, both understand that they are one part of a team, a community and a village that work in support of Sheridan’s youngest learners.
Pictured at top of page: Nancy Simpson (left) and Kara Thompson (right). Photo by Sheridan Photography Technologist Owen Colborne.
Written by: Keiko Kataoka, Digital Communications Officer at Sheridan.