Teacher Ruth recently retired from La Playa Cooperative Nursery School after working here for almost three decades. She has been an important part of La Playa all these years and has helped to bring La Playa into the twenty-first century. Ruth added a lot of great ideas to the classroom along with fantastic parent education for our families. We are so grateful that Ruth dedicated herself to educating children and parents for many decades. Her commitment to La Playa’s play-based philosophy has been a primary part of our curriculum. She taught us all of the nature of social emotional development in the preschool years.
Our La Playa world is a better place because Ruth has been a part of it. No matter where she goes or what she does, she will always be our Teacher Ruth.
I was privileged to interview her before she left. The following is a transcript of our conversation.
When did you know that working with young children was what you wanted to pursue for your career?
When I was 12 years old my mom took me to visit a friend of hers who ran a small preschool from her home. And I remember I thought that I liked it and I thought maybe I’ll do this when I grow up. But then I didn’t think about it that much. And then when I went to college I thought what am I gonna do? I need to work. And then I decided I would take child development classes so I could teach preschool while I was going to college while I figured out what I wanted to do. And it ended up being what I wanted to do. Fast forward to when I was 24 years old, I actually got a job teaching at that very same preschool that I went to when I was 12 years old.
When did you start at La Playa?
October 13th, 1993. It was right before Halloween.
How was La Playa different back then than it is today?
There was one Director and I did all the circle times. The teacher was doing art projects.
The discipline was different. They had a “happy bench “. Where kids would go when they were naughty. They would sit there until they “felt happy”. I brought the conflict resolution in with me. And then Marni and I brought in the guides to speech and action.
You have done countless parent education talks over the years. Which one is the most memorable.
I did one once about our words and how the words we choose to use affect our children and the unintentional teaching we do with our children through our behavior. I used an example with my children that I got angry and lost my temper. I heard my daughters talking. One was upset and asking why mommy gets mad. Then the other said I love it when mommy gets mad because that means she’s gonna take us out to dinner. So I realized when I lost my temper I made up with them with food. And I didn’t realize I was teaching them to comfort themselves with food by doing that. To think about what is the unintentional teaching that you are doing with your child by doing things that you are unaware of. To really think about that. I challenged everybody for the week to come up with one thing they could see they were doing and to work on that one thing. Somebody told me it was their cussing at people while they were driving. And then different things like that.
Can you think of a favorite quote that a child said over the years?
Oh, I have one. But you can’t use it! Ha ha ha ha ha ha! But I have a perfect one. Otis said, “You know it looks like it’s pretty hard to be a teacher. Thank you.”
Tell me about a memorable activity that you did with the kids?
One time we couldn’t use the building because they were doing work on it so we were at the park and we put some mats down under the trees in the shade. And we rolled around on the mats. I rolled around with the kids and I gave them airplane rides on my feet. That was a really nice memory.
What was your favorite dramatic play activity that has happened at the school from all of your years?
My favorite was an impromptu dramatic play. It was a Driver’s Ed class. There was no prep for it or anything. Kevin wanted a driver’s license. And so I did a whole drivers Ed class. And they had to take tests. And they had to make little cards with an ID on it and then they got their driver’s license. That one was really fun!
You’ve mentioned your favorite book is “Owl Moon”. What is your second favorite book?
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I always loved reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
What will you miss the most about La Playa?
You know, I’m gonna miss a lot of things. (She said this as she got teary-eyed.)
I’m gonna miss so much about La Playa. My number one thing is just the kids and when I’m having a hard time they make me laugh. They make me smile just being around them. Just watching them. They can always help my mood. But also, the parents. Just having interactions. Getting to know people and those connections. I actually was thinking about this. My world just got a whole lot smaller. I’m not gonna have that many people to talk to. But of course, I’m gonna be Grammy Ruth. And that will be great!
We will miss you, Teacher Ruth! Thank you for all that you have taught us over the years!