Sunnyland Educator Finds Inspiration During Travels to Italy

Educators in Action

During the summer, Sunnyland preschool teacher, Jen Mallett traveled to Italy. Mallett recently graduated from Western Washington University and gained preliminary training in the Reggio Emilia philosophy of teaching. This philosophy is focused on early learning and was developed by Loris Malaguzzi, an Italian educator.

“I have been both drawn to and inspired by this philosophy as it is in direct alignment with what I learned and know to be true about young children, their learning and development,” said Mallett.

During her time in Italy, Mallett traveled with her high school friends in Rome, Florence and Venice. In these three cities she focused her learning of the arts and the development of the painters and builders over the centuries.

“Both are passions of mine and thanks to my son’s fourth grade teacher at Sunnyland, M’Lyn Avera, my son is captivated and inspired to learn more about art and art history,” said Mallett. “I took many photos to educate and remind myself but also for my son and M’Lyn who will use them this year in her classes.”

Mallett took advantage of her location in Italy to take some time and go to Reggio Emilia and visit the Loris Malaguzzi Children’s Center. For people unfamiliar with the Reggio Emilia philosophy,  Mallett said it is a seemingly complex and layered philosophy of working with young children. She said the philosophy was initially brought about due to families and teachers not being satisfied with how their children were being inspired or rather uninspired, to continue on their natural instincts to learn. A particularly inspiring aspect of the approach for Mallett, who is endorsed in both special education and general education early childhood, is that the philosophy focuses on students with “special rights” (not special needs).  Therefore instruction is designed considering the unique needs of all children. It is a child centered, developmentally appropriate approach that maintains the teacher as researcher.  The teacher must maintain a solid connection with the family and community in which the child learns and grows as those who utilize aspects of this philosophy value the importance and benefits of teaching to the whole child.

Over the next two days, Mallett spent time with a teacher she met from Philadelphia touring the four sites within the center. She took photos and made connections with a few other teachers, whom like her, had stopped by in hopes of gaining more knowledge. Mallett said she was fortunate to meet a few teachers who had just completed the summer institute and shared some of the pearls of the ten days of study.

“Unfortunately, the Institute had just completed their summer workshop, which I hope to attend myself one day in order to deepen my understanding and ability to share with peers,” said Mallett.  “However, I made connections with many teachers with whom I will also be able to continue to learn from and maintain an active dialogue regarding this philosophy.”

Mallett said she had an incredible journey to Italy and will return to the school year with a fresh perspective.

“I am rejuvenated and re-inspired to continue my pursuit of learning to incorporate more of the Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy and principles in my own teaching.  I now see more direct applications that are in alignment with The Bellingham Promise, our curriculum and my personal values and goals as a teacher and individual, working with young children,” said Mallett.  “I am also excited to be reviving and working with a Reggio Emilia round-table discussion group I started when in school at Western. I am excited about the opportunities and the learning I am doing and hope to continue to do in the future.”

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