María: At Primrose, You Belong

By Primrose Schools

María brings all of herself to work at Primrose School of Madison in Alabama. She brings her classroom experience, 17 years teaching Spanish. She brings the educational legacy of her mother, who taught in public schools for 25 years. She brings an understanding of what children need to thrive, as a mom of three and grandmother of two. And she brings the richness of her childhood in Puerto Rico and Spain, which she is happy to share with the diverse group of families that call her Primrose school home.

The Primrose principle of “belongingness” is alive every day in school, says María, who is the school’s education coordinator. “Belongingness is a big word, but it’s very simple,” she says. “It’s feeling at home, feeling that you are part of something, that you are not excluded. That your ideas, ways of thinking and cultural traditions are part of the environment.”

To that end, María and other school leaders partner with families to learn about their cultures. They celebrate elements of Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. María shared oranges, chocolate and candy canes with the children to celebrate Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas Day) on Dec. 6, like her European ancestors.

The children even learn about culture by talking about how their families prepare and eat noodles, María says: macaroni and cheese and sesame noodles and spaghetti and pad thai.

“It’s a great opportunity to use the curriculum, to practice belongingness, and the kids are very open to sharing activities and the things they do with their parents and grandparents,” she says.

Bringing the curriculum to life is at the heart of María’s job as education coordinator. She started at Primrose as a Pre-K teacher before joining leadership. Now her role is to support all the teachers as they deliver the curriculum.

She gets to be in the classroom every day, which is her favorite part of the work. The children know her by name, and she plays music with them, speaks Spanish with them, and works on art and STEM projects with them.

“I love teaching. It’s very rewarding,” she says. “I have a satisfaction seeing the kids learning, that ‘aha!’ moment when they finally discover something for themselves.”

Primrose parents tend to be friendly and supportive, she says. “I value the partnership between the parents and the staff. They always greet us: How is your day? Is there anything I can do?”

Sometimes, María is surprised by what former students and their families remember. At Christmas, a former student brought her a plastic candy cane full of her favorite M&M’s.

“As teachers, we are making a big impact,” she says. “I consider it a privilege.”

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