Congratulations to Jennifer Collins who has been named the Early Childhood recipient of the Connie Wootton Excellence in Teaching Award

George Cottage is thrilled to announce that Jennifer Collins has been named the Early Childhood recipient of the Connie Wootton Excellence in Teaching Award given by the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools.  Jenny, a teacher in our Oak class (three-year-old children), was chosen based on the incredible impact that she has on her students, their families, and our program year after year and her embodiment of the criteria for this honor:
  • Display passion for teaching and innovation
  • Demonstrate a deep appreciation for professional development
  • Possess an entrepreneurial spirit
  • Desire their school to reflect an ongoing commitment to excellence
  • Love the students and strive on a daily basis to help them achieve their personal best
  • Exhibit commitment to the Episcopal approach to education which can be understood as “faith seeking understanding”
 
Jenny has built a community of three-year-olds that includes families and respects children. She has created an environment where children are well-loved, parents are partners, and colleagues work as a team. Parents and “alumni” of all ages come back to visit often. Children are met with compassion and an effort to provide the best possible programming while relationships among children and between children and teachers are nurtured. She is a tireless backer of our program and is anxious to share all of the great things about George Cottage with colleagues on campus and in the community.
 
Jenny gently guides children to make positive choices about behavior and risky play while allowing freedom of exploration and opportunities to learn through experience. She has embraced the importance of involving children in real world work-through projects such as the construction of a playground bench from planning to final dedication; she encouraged her students to swing hammers, draw architectural plans, survey the needs of classmates, and choose the location of the finished product. She has consciously prepared the indoor and outdoor play spaces to foster creativity, independent function, and appropriate challenge for all children in her care, including children with learning and behavior differences.
 
Although she is a champion for all of her students, Jenny is at her best when offering support to those who need a more individualized approach. These children, in particular, thrive within her classroom and make extraordinary progress as they gain independence while being supported to achieve therapeutic and academic goals. Students blossom under her care; they meet milestones, love to come to school, and move forward well-positioned to be successful in Pre-K. She is a gift to discouraged families struggling to understand the uniqueness of their children and a comforting voice reassuring them that their child is as wonderful and bound for success as any other. Even when hard news must be delivered, her loving and considerate handling of the conversation always leaves parents feeling supported and heard. 
 
Jenny is committed to being the best caregiver and teacher possible and has sought additional independent study in an effort to augment her knowledge. She is eager to learn about new ideas, and to try variations on her classroom provocations. She has been one of the loudest advocates of our conversion to a Reggio-inspired curriculum model; she actively researches and discusses potential improvements to her programming with peers and administrators. As an extension of this interest, she researched and attended an educators’ Study Week in Reggio Emilia, Italy, returning with new ideas and collaborative strategies for her students and colleagues. Beyond her own efforts to grow as a professional, she is always open to collaboration with members of the extended community.  
 
She views her responsibility to each child as a sacred assignment and, as such, does all she can to create a place where all children can succeed and where the whole team works together to serve the child. Within our Reggio-inspired program, she includes the traditional academic concepts throughout the day, but she also places an equal emphasis on building good community members who recognize the importance of caring for each other. Conversation and shared observations with the children allow Jenny and her partners to model language and to foster inquiry while building relationships. Incorporating music, books, and additional resources extends topics of interest to the children and strengthens the home-school connection.
 
Congratulations to Jenny for this well-deserved honor!
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