Each of our talented teachers has books that are near and dear to their hearts that they particularly enjoy sharing with the children in their classrooms. Here's a video of Room 3's Head Teacher Alexis Walters discussing what she loves about the book Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo. It's an icky, sticky, rhyming delight that teaches healthy hygiene with fun illustrations and a dose of mischief for good measure.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foboXCUXc0gRead more link text
This amazing night featured a rocking live band, delicious food, open bar, fun games, and tons of stellar auction prizes, including the children's beautiful artwork. All thanks are due to Annie Kaplan, an extraordinary team leader; to Hannah Wittman, who donated graphic design work; to Lex Gopnik-Lewinski for making the live auction primo entertainment; to Sinister Dexter for filling the dance floor; to our whole volunteer team for countless hours perfecting the details and soliciting auction items; and to each and every one of you who came together to celebrate.
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Emerson Donnelly attended Step One from 1994 to 1997, in Room 5 with Charlie Vincent and Jane Timberlake and in Room 1 with Gege Manolis. He remembers particularly how accepting everyone was of his uniqueness. In preschool, he gave himself different names to be addressed by: first ‘Floor-drain,’ followed by ‘Anjun.’ The teachers made him an ’Anjun’ T-shirt so everyone would know his preference. He also remembers how comfortable the teachers would make him feel, and their patience (“like second parents”). Emerson was inspired by his time at Step One to work with youth, and spoke to us about serving as an education volunteer in the United States Peace Corps.
Tell me about your experience in the Dominican Republic.
I’m working on a literacy project in a farming community on the border with Haiti. Everyday, I see people walking from Haiti to go to work or school—3 hours round trip. The Dominican Republic is a very poor country, so there’s a lot of need. I’ve been teaching kids to read in Spanish and working with teachers who are struggling. I’ll help them come up with teaching plans, or model techniques for them. That way, after I leave, kids will still benefit. I’m also working on a community library project, teaching English, and coaching a basketball club.
What have you found most challenging about your work?
Not knowing the obstacles I’ll face. Education in the Dominican Republic works on a patronage system: often the person who’s paid the most does the least. In our school, the school director isn’t there half the time; a great teacher was recently fired and replaced by someone with no degree. It’s also tough coping with social attitudes. I was reading with a girl and her cousin came up, slapped her and said “Go clean the house.” For many people their kid learning to read is last on their list, because even if you get an education, there are still no real opportunities.
How do you cope with educating kids while knowing that, even in the best case scenario, there aren’t many opportunities for them?
There’s a saying here, “Peace Corps is not for the perfectionist.” So much is out of our control. You have to realize often things don’t work out as planned. I focus on the little victories. For example, there’s a family whose oldest son, a 3rd grader, is known as a bad kid. He’s probably my most well-behaved student. I see him and he says, “Emerson, when are we going to read?” The odds are against him but he’s making progress. Recently, instead of fighting, I see him sitting and drawing. That’s a little win that’s meaningful for me.
It also helps to keep in mind that Peace Corps isn’t just project work. As volunteers, we have 3 goals: help our communities, help people in the US understand Dominicans, and help Dominicans understand the US. Small interactions I have with people are important, too. They are what the community will remember. Playing dominoes, basketball, having coffee.
What are your plans for your own future, working with young people?
I want to either teach or do nonprofit work with youth. I’m also interested in working with kids with disabilities. I want to work with kids because you can still influence them, while if you meet a 25 year old who’s a jerk, they’ll probably stay that way! I still remember my Step One teachers who had a big impact on me. At Step One, everyone put their hearts into their work. That’s what I aspire to do; that’s what builds a strong community.Read more link text
Dear Step One Friends and Family,
Spring has sprung! Flowers are everywhere; the children are playing with water and gardening on the hillside. It’s a time of renewal: a time to recommit to our values and refresh our traditions. In that spirit, we welcome our 2nd annual school-wide Peace March, focusing on love, fairness, and taking action for change in our everyday lives. The Peace March is held in the spirit of peace and justice that has animated Step One since its founding. So it feels especially meaningful to embrace this new tradition as we celebrate our history...we will be feteing our 35th Anniversary on Sunday June 4th, 1:00 - 4:00pm!
You are all invited for joyful festivities featuring our current teachers and a slew of wonderful alum faculty: Khadijah Bradshaw, Hazelle Fortich, Keiko Lightner, Jane Lin, Heather Mitchell, Lori Moraca, Alison Paskal, Judi Radiloff, Eva Swope, Jane Timberlake, Charlie Vincent, Kim Wong, and others TBA. We are asking that families register for free tickets: follow the link to sign up. We can’t wait to see you!
This April’s Step One Connect appropriately focuses on carrying our dearest and most meaningful legacies into the future. We interviewed our beloved Step One founding teacher Gege Manolis about her work with the Sam Vincent Foundation, which she began in 2011 after the tragic loss of her son. The Foundation brings Sam’s great heart and love of cooking forward to touch the lives of at-risk youth in the East Bay.
We also spoke with Step One alum Emerson Donnelly about his work as an education volunteer with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. I could not be prouder that Emerson says he was inspired by Step One teachers to work with youth. As you’ll see in the interview, this kind, thoughtful, stalwart and patient young person does his role models proud.
You’ll also enjoy Teachers Zeena Cameron and Steve Egawa on the ‘secret sauce’ that makes Step One’s TK so special, Teacher Alexis Walters on one of her favorite books to explore with little ones, a very Berkeley “How Step One Can You Be?”, and more!
Thank you for being part of our Step One family. It’s a connection that fills our hearts as we watch your children grow, whether they’re playing on the yard or we’re hearing news of the caring and talented individuals they’re growing up to be. Can’t wait to see you all on the 35th!
Wishing you a Spring of renewal and peace -
This spring, Room 4 Head Teacher Angie Forrest-Flahive shared one of her favorite “How Step One Can You Be?” spring traditions. In March and April, Room 4 students grow their own wheatgrass. They play around with the soil, learn how the seeds germinate, watch the grass grow, explore and touch it, clip it with scissors and play with it with toy animals.
It’s discovery perfect for young scientists who learn through direct sensory experience. And all five senses are involved, as the wheatgrass ends its life-cycle in a way fit for a Berkeley preschool. Says Angie, “I confess I feel at my most ‘Berkeley’ when I tell parents that we juice the wheatgrass with the kids and add it to our smoothies.” Thank you Angie and Room 4 for your perfectly springtime Step One story.Read more link text