Prior to relocating to the Rochester area, we lived in Scotia, NY. When my son, Nicholas, was four months old, he was placed into the Schenectady County Early Intervention Program, because he was not tracking objects and had difficulty learning new concepts.
At first, a special education teacher came to the house and worked with Nicholas on a weekly basis. After a few months, his teacher suggested that he should work with a physical therapist, as he was having sensory issues and had difficulty learning to crawl. Then, a few months passed and his teachers recommended that he have a speech pathologist work with him, as he was delayed with his speech patterns. A few more months passed by and the teachers and I decided that Nicholas needed more exposure to all of these skills on a daily basis in order for him to progress.
The teachers recommended a preschool that was fully integrated with all children. The program consisted of a two hour daily preschool program, which included a special education teacher, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist. After the pre-school program, parents could opt to have wrap-around daycare included.
This school was incredible. Every day Nicholas and I walked into those doors, he was greeted by name, with love and excitement by every staff member he encountered, including the secretaries and the custodian. He was excited to go to school, making mornings a breeze. Every moment of the day was purposely planned for developmentally appropriate learning. Every time I walked in, regardless of the time of day, the children were learning. Even in the morning, with us being the first people to walk in the door, there were planned fine motor activities on the table (ex. different color bears, with tweezers and color coded bowls for them to sort the bears) waiting for the children to explore. Nicholas attended this program for about six months, and then he tested out of the Early Intervention Program, though he continued to attend the school until we relocated to Rochester.
Shortly after moving to Rochester, my husband and I began looking for a daycare that was close to home that would provide Nicholas with the same experiences as his old school. I was saddened to learn that these schools are few and far to come by on the West Side of Rochester.
We visited several daycare centers and preschools. We found most of the places were more focused on play, rather than facilitated learning. Many times, we observed the staff sitting next to each other talking, rather than interacting with the children and promoting language building opportunities. Inside the facilities, there were few spaces where children could go to move around, in cases of inclement weather. Some facilities prided themselves in the fact that they offered a writing curriculum for three year olds, including oodles of worksheets.
A few months later, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Strong Museum of Play. I was amazed. This place provided natural learning experiences for all age groups to discover and explore. Literacy opportunities were in every direction: books, paper, writing utensils, words all over the walls to explain what’s happening in the environment (up, down, in, out, loud, quiet). There were multiple opportunities for children to use imaginative play: The Wegmans, the restaurant in the Bernstein Bears section, the helicopter, Sesame Street, and Giant’s land, the assembly line, etc. There were multiple exhibits that encouraged children to explore with science, math, music and art. I left the museum that day thinking…wow…what an amazing place for kids to go and learn.
I began to think…. I could create my own learning center, which incorporates all the things I love about Nicholas’ old school, some of the concepts from Strong Museum, and some of my own ideas. I came up with the following:
In 2012, Imagination Childcare Academy, Inc. was born! The name encompasses all we stand for. We want children to use their imaginations to learn about the world around them. We create an environment that facilitates this learning by modeling and by providing the children with the tools they need to be successful.
Erin Medlar holds a Dual Master’s Degree of Science in Literacy/ Special Education from the University at Albany. She is certified in New York State to teach in the following areas: Elementary Education (1-6), Early Elementary Education (B-2), Special Education (1-6) and Literacy (B-6). She has over twenty years of public and private school teaching experience, working with children from diverse backgrounds with a variety of needs.
For Erin, being a teacher is not just a career; it defines who she is. Everyday she is amazed by the children she works with; she is inspired by their innate curiosity. Married and a mother of two boys, ages nine and seventeen, Erin understands the unique challenges that families face in today’s society. She is continuously building relationships with children and their families, as she believes that it is those partnerships that empower children to reach their fullest potential. Erin uses a hands-on multi-sensory approach to learning, understanding that the more senses children use when they learn, the more likely they will remember those skills and concepts. Erin understands that every child is unique with a variety of strengths that can be built upon, and she modifies the classroom environment to meet these individual needs. She uses continual assessment as a way to guide her instructional decisions, rather than relying on any one set curriculum.
Ultimately, Erin is grateful to have the opportunity to work with young children for the chance to be a positive role model in their lives.