By Amanda Mitchell
Early Childhood Coordinator & Admission Officer
One step into RoseMarie Mirabile’s PreK classroom and you know it’s a special place for young children. We sat down with Rose to learn her secret sauce for leading early childhood work at GA for the past 25 years. (Hint: It’s a tremendous amount of love, generosity and patience.)
How did you first join the GA community?
I started at the GA childcare center in the toddler and infant rooms. I enjoyed it very much. I loved the children and was passionate about being with them and watching them grow. I loved being on the floor with them and playing alongside them. It was physically exhausting some days to keep up with toddlers! There was an opening for an assistant teacher in PreK. I remember thinking, “What am I going to teach these kids?” During my interview, I came over with my little red wagon and did some planting with the children. I instantly felt that connection with them. I knew their names and I could feel their love. I love children and I love learning. I learn from the kids every day and from my colleagues. I’m a people person.
How would you describe the learning environment here at GA?
It is a positive and a joyful place. We make it warm, welcoming and inviting. My students feel loved, respected, nurtured, and safe. Once the children feel this and establish trust in our classroom community, that’s when the learning can take place.
What stands out as something that you’re really proud of in your tenure at GA?
The Tinker Lab, which began in 2013. That winter, we played indoors a lot because of the weather. It was so cold. The kids were getting restless. We asked ourselves, “What can we do that is really hands-on?” Let’s do woodworking! Hammering, nailing, sawing, cooking and sewing—that was our vision. We took an empty classroom and created a space that invited curiosity and fostered deeper learning. We saw that as the children were using real tools, they were expanding their creativity and becoming problem solvers. They were more flexible in their thinking and confident in their abilities.
One thing leads to another…
It was the same year when something else transpired. In the past we would always say, “You can’t jump in the puddle. Don’t go in the mud.” But there I was observing children with one green bucket and a stick. One bucket between 13 kids! They were able to share that bucket and take turns. I was looking at them and their faces were so happy and engaged. I asked them, “What are you making?” Chocolate cake, cookies and mud pies; the creativity just grew and grew. “Can we jump in the puddle?” They didn’t have boots or anything, but you could instantly see the joy. Allowing them to do that, lets them be whoever they want to be.
What is you see as your most important role as an educator?
Character education and helping students to be kind and live our Mission is important. Children are a reflection of their teachers and parents. We are their models in these younger years. When there is a conflict, you hear our words reflected in their dialogue. I see it and hear it each day. We give them the strategies and the tools so that they can learn from us.
You teach kids how to ride bikes, how to sew and hammer, and how to be a kind friend. What advice to you have for parents of young children?
The most important thing to teach parents is to encourage independence. Children are very confident and capable of doing things for themselves. Children love to learn. If we believe in them, they will believe in themselves. By doing this, they are happy, confident and comfortable with themselves. When they feel this way, they are able to take risks. With much encouragement from us, they will persevere and they will embrace these failures and learning opportunities.
My husband would always say to our boys, “figure it out.” I have been using that in the classroom. “You figured it out! You problem-solved!” It’s so valuable to celebrate their success. When you see them in the act of doing, you praise them. I don’t like the idea of rewarding them with stickers because I feel that children need to learn that working together and helping each other is part of life. Children do their best when they know what’s expected of them. You need to set expectations high.
When you think about the world your students will enter, what are the 21st century skills you help them build?
I always say that if my sons were stranded on a desert island, they would survive. Learning how to get along and communicate with each other is essential. I see the value of empathy and understanding the feelings of others. I think they learned all of this through play and in school at GA. We live in a world where change is constant and the learning never stops. Play is how children learn these skills: to work as a team, to share, to negotiate conflicts. I always encouraged them to play outside. When I look at my boys, it was always about hands-on learning and active doing.
What do you value about the school community here at GA?
GA taught my own sons the skills they needed to succeed in life. It taught them to be leaders and global citizens, to be kind and to listen to others. The expectations their teachers had for them helped them climb the ladder of success both socially and academically.
What do you love best about GA?
Everyone and everything. I always say, GA is the place to be. It’s a close-knit community that offers opportunities for all ages: teachers, parents, and students. It’s like a child, I can’t just pick one thing I like best and each part is important to the whole. Everything is connected. I think that’s what makes the GA community. We feel that connectedness.