Ivy League Approaches to Early Childhood

    Pre-K Center Principal Focuses on Closing The Achievement Gap

    Sandy Weser-Chavarria, Center Director
    Pre-K 4 SA, North Education Center
    San Antonio, TX
    Raise Your Hand Texas Alumna ’14 (Closing the Achievement Gap)

    Sandy Weser-Chavarria, director at Pre-K 4 SA’s North Education Center, leads through her passion and what she believes is important for students. The children, she says, drive her decisions. Always.

    Weser-Chavarria is not afraid to blend in, help direct parent traffic in the mornings, or make herself comfortable at a classroom desk where a magnifying glass and an overturned bucket of leaves, branches and acorns spark all sorts of instructional commentary about plant biology and letters of the alphabet.

    In 2014, Raise Your Hand Texas sponsored Weser-Chavarria’s participation in a “Closing the Achievement Gap” course for school leaders through the Principal’s Center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Here, she shares what she took away from the experience, and how it enhances her work in early education.

    Pre-K 4 SA North Education Center Director Sandy Weser-Chavarria explains how what looks like play can actually be instructional work at the pre-k level.

    Q&A with Sandy Weser-Chavarria

    Q. How much of your training at Harvard was dedicated to early childhood?
    A. We had a whole-day session just on early childhood. It is sometimes put on the back burner. The institute understood the importance of a good strong foundation.

    Q. What did you take away from that part of the training?
    A. It really looked at education from early childhood all the way through, beyond higher ed. Oftentimes we focus a lot on curriculum. It’s more about being very aware of where a child is, regardless of age; where they are developmentally. Where are they in specific skills and how do we support that skill and scaffold that learning to get them to the next level?

    Q. Good teachers are an essential element of quality early education. Did your training reinforce the importance of teacher professional development?
    A. We learned a lot about instructional rounds and empowering our own teachers to learn from and teach each other. We’ve established a leadership team here at our campus. We’re dissecting that [Harvard] criteria and doing real self-reflecting. Where are the areas of strength, and where are the areas we need to work on? We are lifelong learners and being able to use some of those strategies I learned at Harvard is helping us move forward.

    Q. What does leadership look like to you?
    A. I learned from some of the best leaders I’ve had the privilege to work under. What I admired most about them was, it was do whatever it takes. And so they modeled for me that it isn’t just the leader who leads, it’s the leader that does. You know, changing a [soiled] child if you needed to, picking up the trash if that had to happen. It’s teamwork. I am very much hands-on and I think that is important.