Meet Kim Turnbull, a Preschool Founder and the Director of Brooklyn Schoolhouse, an independent progressive preschool in Brooklyn, NY.
As someone who believes in inquiry-based learning and the power of play and wonderment in the process, Kim is instilling a life-long love of learning amongst the kids at her pre-school. As a child, Kim was told that she could achieve anything she put her mind to and today, she is happy to have a beautiful, flourishing small progressive school. Kim oversees the school, working part-time while focussing on her new baby at home.
Kim grew up in a yoga and meditation community and had a very happy, idealistic childhood. “Life is bliss” was a strong theme in her childhood. Reminiscing about those days, Kim says, “I rode my horse every day after school. I have a very loving family, and as a child, I had great, sweet, true friends. Everything was perfect and beautiful!”
When Kim moved to New York City for college, it was a drastic change from her yoga community in the countryside. She lived with her older brother and had a really fun time being in her 20s in NYC. She earned a graduate degree in childhood education and was a teacher in progressive schools in New York City for 11 years when she found her passion for teaching in a preschool classroom for children with special needs. She elaborates, “The teacher I assisted was an angel. I was deeply moved and inspired by her. I excitedly began my career as an assistant teacher, then a lead teacher. After teaching in three different progressive schools for 11 years, I told my boss that my goal was to start my own school. This idea was ingrained in me from my childhood and I had the courage and grit to set out to achieve my dream of starting a new progressive school. She generously became my mentor and helped me with the great challenge of starting a school in New York City.”
Kim’s “Brooklyn Schoolhouse” is a progressive preschool that welcomes a diversity of families from the neighbourhood of Brooklyn. The school is founded on the conviction that children have an innate desire to explore, play, and learn, and thus, is a place of engagement, discovery, wonderment, and aliveness. They focus on inquiry-based learning and have designed their curriculum according to children’s interests and the questions they ask. According to Kim, “This kind of education builds collaboration skills and social responsibility, and fosters creativity and ingenuity. As each curriculum evolves, we encourage children to think creatively, investigate their questions, and build new understandings.” At the preschool, Kim and her colleagues aim to foster global citizens with their school who embrace co-existence and are inspired to fulfil their dreams and take responsibility for the sustainability of the planet.
There have been countless challenges in Kim’s journey. Her main challenge, in the beginning, was in owning her leadership position and being “the boss”. She elaborates, “In the beginning I treated everyone on staff as equals, and took in all ideas equally. I quickly found that for the school to fulfill my vision, its mission, I needed to lead. So, I learned how to be a good leader, and worked with an executive coach, and took multiple leadership courses.” Kim has grown a lot over time, and presently, her greatest challenge is figuring out how to be a good leader while staying home with her baby. She has hired a skilled Education Director for the school while choosing to be at home for the beginning of her son’s life, but she still feels the need to be a good leader for her and the teachers. For her, it is challenging to see the school daily while taking care of her baby, but she is working her way through it and is learning every day.
Children and families love Brooklyn Schoolhouse and Kim is a huge success in her field. She owes all of this to her philosophy in life – “You can achieve anything you put your mind to and work hard at! As long as you get the degrees necessary and work hard, you are as good as anyone else. Only you can make your dreams come true. So, go, and do it.”