The first day of school is always special, but especially so for the very young.
By Robin Jovanovich
The first day of school is always special, but especially so for the very young. When students arrive at Rye Presbyterian Nursery School next month, many new experiences are in store for them. Director Emma Whitman, who will be starting her first year at the helm, comes to Rye from New Orleans, where she was director of St. George’s Episcopal School.
When her husband’s technology job moved him back to New York City, she first looked at positions in the city. Whitman, a Wellesley College graduate, who majored in Child Development and History, was no stranger to New York. She worked at a public school in the Bronx, while getting her Master’s degree at Bank Street College of Education, and at a private pre-school in Brooklyn Heights.
“But we wanted a close-knit community and I wanted a school whose philosophy was similar to my own,” she said. St. George’s, like Rye Presbyterian, follows the Reggio model — focusing on individual needs, promoting critical thinking, collaborative problem-solving, and readiness for Kindergarten — and Whitman is a firm believer in that model.
“When I visited Rye Presbyterian, I saw faculty members who engage and get down on the floor with the kids. There was so much excitement among the teachers and parents,” said Whitman, who can’t wait for her first day and the chance to make a great nursery school even better.
For starters, RPNS is bringing back parent workshops on separation and Kindergarten readiness. They’re also planning a lot of professional development for teachers.
She’s already had a “play date” at Rye Nature Center. “We partner with them in an extended-day program and they invited me over to explore!” RPNS also partners with the Rye Arts Center. Rye Playschool, which is in the RPNS building, takes younger students and does a lunch bunch which fills more needs. Whitman believes that these are just the beginning of more extended-day relationships as working parents seek more full-day programs.
While getting to know every one of the 300 students who will be attending this fall, Whitman plans to spend time observing in the classrooms.
Last month, Whitman and her husband Dave Hague moved to Mamaroneck from the City. She is close to getting her Ph.D. from Erikson Institute in Chicago and very happy to be part of the Rye Presbyterian Nursery School family. “So far, we only have a dog,” said Whitman.