Jessica Spenchian, Founder and Head Teacher
Jessica is a certified preschool teacher and college-level writing instructor. She is also the mother of two wonderful preschool age children.
With a pre-teaching background in early literacy program evaluation (K-5), grant writing, resource development, interactive media production and project management, Jessica brings a dynamic, interdisciplinary perspective to her work with students of all ages. But it was frequent feedback regarding her caring personality and intuitive ability to connect with young children that ultimately motivated Jessica’s decision to turn her creative energy toward founding her own preschool program.
Inspired by her previous experience working as a Head Preschool Teacher at Stretch the Imagination in San Francisco, Jessica’s mission is to combine the developmental advantages of a small, high quality preschool environment with the provision of full time childcare. Her commitment to the use of responsive language and to designing age appropriate, play-based avenues for extended inquiry make her particularly fond of the project-oriented Reggio approach to early childhood education–an approach which views young children as active, capable shapers of the world around them.
Jessica’s interest in child-centered teaching and emergent curriculum design–instructional methods which position the children’s own evolving questions as starting points for all forms of sensory exploration–is complemented by her deep understanding of the Italian cultural context out of which the Reggio model arose. Having lived and worked in Bologna, Italy for over three years prior to becoming a teacher, Jessica is a fluent (but imperfect) speaker of Italian and she remains optimistic about the possibility of adding an Italian language and cultural component to The Children’s Workshop Oakland program at some point in the future.
Jessica holds a BA in World Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz, a Child Development Permit from City College of San Francisco and a Masters degree in English Composition with a Post-Secondary Reading Certificate from San Francisco State University.
Elizabeth “Liz” Hinsley, Co-Teacher
Liz is a certified preschool teacher with over ten years of experience working with and teaching young children. Originally from Washington, DC, Liz recently relocated to the Bay Area after receiving a full scholarship to complete her Masters in Early Childhood Education, Growth & Development at Mills College. As an educator, her passion is to positively contribute to the lives of children.
Specializing in mindfulness and the power of mindful awareness to enhance social, emotional and academic learning, Liz combines the use of resonant experiences from the children’s everyday lives with positive affirmations to create a supportive and nurturing classroom culture. Liz’s dedication to the field of Child Development, her extensive training and ongoing advocacy for high quality early childhood education programs for all children and her unwavering commitment to guiding young children towards successful outcomes in school and in life make Liz an outstanding teacher and role model.
Liz is also working on a book about the importance of positive affirmation language in the classroom and is a certified adult and children’s yoga instructor.
Katie Knox, Co-Teacher
Katie is a recent graduate from the University of Vermont with a dual degree in Elementary Education and Latin. Over the past five years she has worked with children of all ages. During her time at UVM Katie focused on helping first, third and fourth graders develop foundational literacy skills. She later joined her local YMCA’s infant/toddler program as a part time teaching assistant and fell in love with early childhood education.
Before making her move to California, Katie spent the past year teaching in a Reggio Emilia-inspired childcare center and preschool in Burlington, Vermont. Her time there allowed her to explore innovative curricula with a variety of age groups ranging from birth to age five. Ultimately, Katie has come to realize that she finds working with preschool age children most rewarding. She appreciates not only the curiosity and fresh perspective inherent in these magical years, but also the exciting challenge of developing emergent curriculum that remains in direct conversation with the children’s ideas.
Of the belief that education is most affective when learning is organic—rooted in students’ interests and experiences—Katie feels incredibly privileged to have collaborated with so many dynamic and inspiring practitioners of flexible, constructivist educational principles. Her teaching objectives remain closely tied to the core Reggio philosophy: that it is the job of educators to further learning that is directed by the children, for it is the children’s right to be provided with the necessary opportunities and tools required to express themselves and develop their potential.
For Katie, it is the Reggio approach that best enables children to construct their own knowledge and relationships with the world–encouraging them to explore, observe, question and discuss. Katie makes it her mission to cultivate strong, collaborative parent-teacher relationships in an effort to meaningfully connect her students’ first teachers (their parents) and their earliest classroom (their home) with their first independent, social learning experiences (as members of their peer-based school community).
Wren Ganin-Pinto, Co-Teacher
Wren has been working with young children for several years and has found the Reggio Emilia approach to be a wonderful way to connect with little ones. She thrives on play and inquiry-based learning and is excited to bring her love of and experience with somatic movement education (as well as with music and song) to the experiential classroom. Wren is also passionate about being out in nature and looks forward to bringing her love of creatures and plants into the activities and adventures of the day. When Wren is not working with the children, she will be studying to become a Rabbi at the Shomeret Shalom Rabbinical School and Learning Center.