“But what do you do?”

“But what do you do?” ~ when I hear the question I have to quickly decide if I give the full speech, a one minute version of the speech, or just a few words.

Most people within my professional circle know me as a “preschool teacher”. A kind, warm and fuzzy teacher who ties shoes, wipes off messy faces, sings songs and teaches about manners, nature, art, and social-emotional skills. My last eight years in the classroom were spent in preschool, and I came to realize the power and fundamental role that early childhood has on both the academic success in school and lifelong impact for children who have access to high quality early childhood programs.

When I took on a new role of entrepreneur and creating a business as an educational consultant, my friends didn’t quite know how the presumably soft skills of preschool teacher would translate into a business model. Surprisingly, learning how to take care of young children prepared me well for working with a wide range of groups because nearly all people find it refreshing to work with someone who is both kind and a go-getter!

Back to the question…”But what do you do?”

In a few words ~ I am an educational consultant.

One minute speech ~ I am an Early Childhood Educator and I work with schools, child care centers, businesses and organizations to develop programs that support a ‘holistic view of childhood”. With my almost twenty years of working with families and children I know the silos and obstacles that exist within our system and I can help facilitate ways to improve our programs to have a greater impact on children.

And for those who really want to dive into more of the details….I typed up an even longer description!

April Zajko, M.Ed. is the owner of April’s Teaching Tree, an educational consulting business with a mission of “growing a holistic view of childhood”. April has been leading professional development in education since 2003 and is licensed in Vermont as both as an Early Childhood Educator and Reading Specialist. April has built a solid reputation for providing relevant, engaging, and motivating programs that take theory and put it into actionable steps to improve outcomes for children.  Over the last school year, April has led professional development in Vermont for child care centers, regional Head Start teams, Starting Points networks, and private programs. April has partnered with several nonprofit organizations who are working toward improving educational programs for young children, including the Vermont Community Engagement Lab and the STEM Lab at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium. Over the last eight years, April has led trainings at the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children fall conference and developed master level trainings in science. Since 2016, April has taught early childhood courses for the Community College of Vermont in Saint Johnsbury, and has helped many new professionals get started on their career path in early childhood education.

April is committed to workforce development and knows that as we empower early care providers we strengthen our system and practices of care for ALL families.

April is passionate about advocating for nature-based learning and puts creativity and PLAY at the center of the curriculum.

April believes that ALL children thrive when we design inclusive programs that offer supportive and warm environments that cultivate nurturing  and responsive relationships.

April’s Teaching Tree gives voice to the vision and mission of “growing a holistic view of childhood”. To read my weekly blog post subscribe at http://www.aprilsteachingtree.com

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If your program or organization wants to create custom professional development or partner on projects for the next school year, please email April directly at aprilzajko@gmail.com

If you are an individual and want to sign up for a course of program led by April Zajko, visit this link which will be updated as programs or classes are added ~ https://aprilsteachingtree.com/upcoming-trainings/

If you would like to be part of April’s ongoing women’s leadership group called P.O.W.E.R.~Path of Wellness, Environment, and Relationship ~ send an email to get more information ~ aprilzajko@gmail.com

“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” ~Gandhi

P.O.W.E.R. ~ Path of Wellness, Empowerment & Relationships

One of the best parts of leading professional development training is the deep conversation and connections that I get to make with other early care providers and educators.

On Monday of this week I led a training called “Leading with Empathy” and we dove deep into topics of emotional vocabulary, fostering inclusion and belonging in our programs, building strong relationships with the families in our programs, defining empathy & considering how to build those skills with children, and developing self care action plans.

This was the first time leading this training, but I knew that this was helping me to synthesize and apply much of the research and work that I have been exploring this year. Helping others to make deeper connections, act with compassion, gain more confidence in their work, and build up our reserves so we can be care givers without depleting ourselves, and to turn our vulnerabilities into strengths.

Whoa…this is important work for all of us no matter our field!

Driving home I was reflecting on the presentation and the conversations. The word “POWER” kept coming to mind, and my wish to be able to pass on confidence and power to all the women that I work with. Many child care providers and moms that I know need a POWER boost, and often I find myself giving PEP talks to other women who feel stripped of their power.

Community of Practice model ~ working together with others in order to improve ourselves and to foster growth within our team or community is the way to change our views. When we connect with a small group of others in this way, all working toward the same goal, we create a synergy! Being part of a community who are all committed to the same goal makes us feel like we belong, and we feel supported to grow and change.

Women’s Gatherings ~ for most of my life I have been part of a small tribe of other women who are working on the same life goals. As a teen being invited into drumming circles, as a young adult leading Wise Women’s retreats, leading yoga classes and adult wellness programs when I ran a Holistic Health Center. Later once I began working in early childhood education, leading parenting groups, play groups, Mommy Coffee Hour, and professional development. All of these tribes and circles have supported me and helped me become who I am.

So developing my own framework for growing into our P.O.W.E.R. is one of the big projects in store for June 2019!

P.O.W.E.R. = Path of Wellness, Environment, & Relationships ~ weaving together much of the research, reading, and inner work that I have been doing in order to offer an in-person women’s coaching group. I am also going to offer it as an online e-course as well so I can send my positive message to a wider audience. Eventually, I will have a framework or blueprint ready to share with other women who want to lead their own groups!

If you would like to be part of my FREE online BETA-test group or live local and want to be part of my summer group, email me at aprilzajko@gmail.com 

 

 

Thank you to the “Starting Points Child Care Network” in Randolph, Vermont for inspiring me this week! I hope you each took away some tools that you will use in your work! Our training this week really me inspired me! I am so eager to dive into developing this larger training program!

With gratitude,

April

Play Advocate & BETA Test

Years ago I read about creating a play advocate binder from Lisa Murphy. Her #binder challenge was a practical way to empower early childhood educators of all backgrounds to embrace the research, read it, print it, and then feel confident to promote learning through play. At the time I thought that the Ooey Gooey Lady must be a soul sister, and I followed along her journey from the periphery. I also had been printing, reading and highlighting articles for years to prove my motto: PLAY = LEARNING!

My binder turned into binders, because there is so much important research about ECE and play. Those articles changed me and my classroom practices, so the binders got turned into workshops that I presented in person. Those workshops helped me meet all sorts of amazing early care providers in Vermont, who told me about more articles and books to read. Which lead me to more stuff to learn, synthesize, and apply. And during this journey of ‘teacher as researcher’ I realized that unequivocally PLAY = LEARNING!!!

Well for 2019, I have set my intention to be a more vocal PLAY advocate.

I believe ALL children deserve the right to PLAY! (((shout it from the mountain tops)))

I have been figuring out how my voice could add to and enhance all the great things already happening. I shy away from political action, loathe asking people for money or doing fund raising, and might rather pluck my eye lashes out than to argue with people entrenched in their own ways of doing things. My pal Sally Haughey, of Fairy Dust Teaching fame, urged me to take my ‘teacher as researcher’ practical approach and use my voice to lead online e-courses. So that’s what I am working on this school year…and there is definitely a lot to learn.

Earlier this week I sent out a little message to a private early childhood group about my goal of being a “play advocate” and about the BETA test of my first online course. I want to test out my course with a small group of diverse early childhood educators so that the content is applicable to wider audience and is tested in the field.

Within an hour of sending out my little message,who is the first to respond but the guru of play advocacy herself! Yes, Ms. Ooey!!! Pinch me, I might be dreaming!

To quote Ms. Ooey’s idea about creating a binder of articles related to play, from a FB post from 2013…. “Put PLAY = LEARNING! PRESENTING THE EVIDENCE. on the cover. From this point forward, copy anything and everything that supports a hands on play based program and put it in there. The intention is to see that it’s not our personal preference that “play is the way” but it is what is backed by science, evidence, anecdotes and experience. It gets it out of us appearing to simply “want it” and shows that others have already done the work to support it.”

For me being a play advocated started with a binder….and now I feel equipped (and most days confident enough) to say that PLAY is a right that is worth fighting for! Maybe I need to sew a cape or make a protest sign!

Stay tuned to April’s Teaching Tree because I have lots of research based information and have the know-how to make it do-able for a wide variety of settings.

I am learning the ropes of the social media world and can now be found here—

Blogging at: www.aprilsteachingtree.com

Facebook – April’s Teaching Tree

Instagram – Aprils_Teaching_Tree

Pinterest – azajko

 

And if you want to be in the small group of participants to BETA test my new course email me – aprilzajko@gmail.com The official well-polished course will be ready for release later in 2019!

Gardening All Year: The Circle Widens

IMG_2586This week I had the fine pleasure of being a presenter in Sally of Fairy Dust Teaching’s 2016 Summer Early Childhood Online Conference. What an honor it is to be a presenter with such a rich and knowledgeable group of educators. I am humbled, and honored for the many comments that were shared after folks watched my e-course.

I feel like my circle of friends has widened, and I am eager to share resources with everyone. My blog is in it’s sapling stage, but I hope that you check back.
I will set up my opt-in this weekend, and by subscribing to my newsletter, I will share a big packet of ideas (more than what was in the slide show) to get you “gardening all year” with your children.

Thanks again for stopping by!

April

 

For more information about the 2016 Summer Early Childhood Conference click here:

Summer Conference