September 2023 Educator of the Month – Allison McMurtry

In this exclusive interview, we delve into Allison’s journey and the remarkable story behind the inception of the Goddard School in Denver, Colorado. Prepare to be inspired as we share her incredible story. 

1. Can you share the inspiration behind founding your school and what motivated you to take this bold step in education?

I was working in a demanding corporate job, dropping my little boy off at a Goddard School every morning and pickup every evening and it occurred to me, it would be an amazing second career to own a preschool! I researched and planned and 5 years later, we opened our beautiful Goddard School in North Denver. We care for 195 children and employ 42 people. It is far more difficult than I had imagined, but it is infinitely more rewarding as well. I receive no fewer than a dozen hugs every day. When families graduate from our program, we receive heartfelt, tearful expressions of gratitude from parents and children. The joy and gratitude we receive is worth every sleepless night!

2. As the founder, what unique educational philosophy or approach does your school embody, and how does it set your institution apart from other schools?

It is our role to teach children to love coming to school, how to make friends, and to learn about love and kindness. Children learn best through play. We provide robust learning activities all day long designed to be engaging and fun. They don’t even realize they are learning science, engineering, art, and most importantly social skills! Learning to play with others, make friends, be kind, follow instruction, and self regulation are essential skills for an academic career, as well as a happy life. 

3. How do you foster a sense of community and belonging within your school, both among students and their families, and what impact has it had on the overall learning experience?

Our creed states, “we are more than a school, we are community, we are family” and we live into that. We build relationships with our families and employees. We have fun, we laugh, we support one another. We don’t shy away from difficult discussions and we find the strength in difficult moments knowing that we come from a place of love and bravery. We are raising children together and we are very clear with potential new families who we are. My husband David and I own the school, and run it. We are here every day, we know every single child in our care. We talk with them, giggle with them, hold them when they are sick or hurt, and talk with them when they are upset. Everyone in our community knows that we deeply care about our people, and what we do every day. We are working to serve our community, teach young children, and provide safe and reliable care for families. 

4. In today’s rapidly evolving world, how do you adapt your curriculum and teaching methods to prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of the future?

Our school puts a huge emphasis on social skill development. We have an occupational therapist and behavioral analyst to provide instruction to support all children, and particularly those with extra needs. We are constantly learning, experimenting, and honing our skills to support children and teachers. We practice mindfulness, both in lessons and by example. We have open discussions with parents to make sure they are educated on age appropriate milestones and advise when additional assessments and support may be needed. We strive to constantly innovate and learn more about the early childhood education industry. 

5. Building a school requires a dedicated team. Could you discuss the role of your staff and teachers in shaping the school’s identity and providing an exceptional learning environment?

Our teachers and staff are the backbone of our identity and product that we provide. We fiercely protect and support them. We are very selective in our hiring process and very clear about job expectations. Childcare providers have historically been underpaid and overlooked as teaching professionals. Thankfully, society seems to be realizing the importance of educating children before kindergarten, and our profession is gaining more respect. We are advocates for the industry and our teachers. We are proud to pay well and look for more opportunities to elevate the early childhood educational professionals of our community. 

On a lighter note, we encourage having fun here at work, and outside of it as well. We love to be together and have fun with regular team gatherings like parties, camping trips, sporting events, and happy hours! 

6. How does your approach to planning contribute to maintaining a healthy balance in your life?

My planner is the guide to my life… EVERY DAY! It is my rooting system, it calms me, it grounds me. If I am stressed and behind in my work and life, my planner will reflect it by looking messy or undone. Once I prioritize my planner, I reorganize myself and can tackle my tasks again. Mostly, my planner is my schedule and to-do list, but sometimes I use it to journal. Often I use it to remember a moment, something hilarious a child said, or how good something felt (hello Taylor Swift concert!) Sometimes I use it to work through something that is upsetting me to let go of negative emotion. I also use it to record silly things, like my Wordle guesses, how many emails I tackle per day, and the time it took me to solve the NYT mini crossword. If my house was on fire, my planners would be the first thing I’d save!

7. Being the prodigious planner that you are, what is your favorite Dutch and Deckle product and why?

I have customized the 3 month with a full page spread per day, and the 6 month with a single page per day, I love both! Dutch and Deckle helped me explore a bit more about horoscopes. The daily readings allow me a moment to think about that energy in my day and bring in a bit of mindfulness. The paper quality is phenomenal and that is incredibly important. The feeling of the pen on beautiful paper is irreplaceable as any planner aficionado will tell you! I am obsessed with the cover color options, particularly Wisteria and Manhattan! 



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