Maria Cortese: Purposeful activities engage interests and participation
Year: 2018 – Province: British Columbia
Certificate of Excellence Recipient
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School
2550 Cameson Street
Vancouver, BC V6R 3W6
Type of setting: Preschool for children ages 2 to 5 years
Hired to transform a parish school's Junior Kindergarten, Maria Cortese not only manages the program—including budgeting, staffing and planning—and sets its overall vision, based on the idea of the whole child, but also personally ensures the well-being of all the children enrolled.
Philosophy of care
Maria recognizes the importance of providing an environment for each child to build and sustain positive relationships with themselves, one another, their families, their culture and the world around them. She does this first by forming strong bonds between each child and herself in the classroom.
Support of child development
- Ensures that every activity has a purpose, based on her observations of children's skills, abilities, interests and needs: running a restaurant, role playing in the "house corner," investigating all aspects of art, exploring textures and the senses, taking care of the community and nature
- Focuses on social responsibility, not taking the easy way out and core values such as integrity: when children asked for something new for the class, Maria engaged them in raising funds for it; when the school walkathon was rained out, it was rescheduled so children could still honour their pledges
- Recognizes and adapts to children's special needs: brought in her dog to help children learn empathy and responsibility; encouraged boy struggling to connect with peers to lead class survey on food; eased transition for child needing glasses by reading cute story on the topic to class
- Recognizes and responds to children's individual contributions: the Star of the Week takes the "sharing bag" home and returns with personal items to share with classmates; in response to child's request, Maria started school collection of baby blankets for families who could not afford them
Involvement with parents, families and the community
- Teaches the importance of family and respects children's heritage: children bring a toy and family photo from home on first day to ease transition to school and prompt conversation with classmates; children share information about their family with drawings and stories
- Holds special events for families, such as pizza/Lego night for dads and Mother's Day teas; welcomes siblings to class; asks parents to share their talents and knowledge with the children
- Emphasizes caring for and learning from the elderly: children visit the school's neighbour, "Farmer Jim," each week to help maintain his garden (and the pumpkin patch in the fall) and bring veggies back to class to cook; the children planned a surprise 96th birthday party for him
"Maria has a genuine and heartfelt desire to grant each child she teaches the opportunity to imagine, build, wonder, collaborate, innovate and thus grow in their own right."
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