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Gillispie School / Early Childhood  / New Teacher Highlight: Denise Bryan

New Teacher Highlight: Denise Bryan

A warm welcome to our new Atelier Support and Aftercare Teacher Denise Bryan! She answers some questions about herself here:

What’s your favorite teaching moment?

My favorite teaching moments have come from working with preschool age children.  The joy of working with young children is that you never know what they are going to come up with.  As a teacher, you can’t have a prescribed, predetermined way that an activity you plan will work out. Instead, your teaching is always a dynamic and ever-changing landscape that you get to create with the children.

My favorite teaching moment is when I get to witness the “light turning on moments” and “wheels turning in their head moments”.  I love the sheer glee children exude during this moment of new discovering and figuring something out.  Children show their emotions through their whole body to express their thrill at these moments:  jumping for joy, showing their cheshire grin from ear to ear, shouting with utter excitement.  As a teacher, I am honored to be able to share their excitement in these new discoveries.

What inspired you to work with kids?

I was the child who started babysitting regularly by 5th grade.  When I came home from school, the favorite game with the neighborhood kids was playing school.  My friend, Tracy and I were always the co-teachers.  As teachers, our “curriculum” included nature walks to the top of the mountain behind our house, building forts with my dad’s woodworking scraps, baking cookies, collecting wildflowers in the field between our homes, learning to roller skate and ice skate – who knew we had our own preschool by age 10?  Years later when I began my undergraduate studies at the University of Arizona I entered their phenomenal early childhood education program that helped me identify a degree for the work that I loved.

What is your favorite thing/hobby to do outside of school?

Outside of school, I enjoy traveling (Once I travel to Maine, I will have visited all 50 states.), cheering on my daughters at their sporting events, running, hiking, finding the road less traveled and the best eats, going to outdoor concerts and catching the green flash during sunsets at Torrey Pines Tower 5.

What is something interesting about you that the Gillispie community wouldn’t know?

I keep a bucket list for life.  Some of my favorite are: rode my bike across California along with my daughter and 50 other families.  We dipped our back tire in the Colorado River, Yuma, AZ and ended our trip with our front tire touching the waves at Moonlight Beach; rafted on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with my Dad to celebrate his 70th birthday; took voice lessons and created an original version of “Forever in Blue Jeans” to sing to my husband on our wedding day; ran a marathon and saw whales breaching as I ran along the coastline of Maui.  Some of my best bucket list items were recommendations from others.  Please share some of your favorite experiences in life.  I love to challenge and surprise myself as I continue to “grow up” by adding things to my list.

What is your favorite subject to teach?

Art.  I’m a firm believer that art should be available to children each day.  When a child walks into their classroom, mainstays of their rooms include: paint easels set up each day, a self-help cart which includes a collection of found objects cultivated by teachers, children and families with tools to fasten materials together such as tape, wire, string, glue, staplers, hole punches and finally a new activity in art for children to engage (weaving, wool dying, sewing, printmaking, clay, etc.).  Having these elements present each day allows for masterpieces, new inventions, and discoveries to be made and explored.   Giving children access to many tools and media for expressing and expanding their ideas is so important.

While in Seattle, I had the unique opportunity to be involved in an art docent program where we brought a traveling museum of over 120 original art pieces to underperforming schools.  Each school would house the collection for a month and I would visit the school over a two week period to lead art discussions and activities inspired by the original pieces.  I have continued my passion for art over the years with volunteering and leading art lessons in my daughters’ elementary school classrooms.

EC Career

My career in teaching has spanned 20+ years.  I have taught multiple age groups from one-year-olds to college students.  I have worked in many types of school settings from university laboratory schools, on-site child care, family child care, parent co-ops, private nursery schools and public schools.  My early childhood practice has focused on the teachings and philosophies of Reggio Emilia, Project-based approach, Montessori and social constructivism.  Over the years my work has spanned many facets in the early childhood field from teaching, directing, consulting, research, evaluation and policy work.  My biggest accomplishment has been raising two independent, creative and kind daughters, Lily and Macy, with my husband, Chris.  We began our family in Seattle, WA and just celebrated our sixth year in San Diego.

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