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  • SarahB

The Community at Climbing Tree

Sarah Barber

I moved to Tucson in 2012 from Ireland and found a home at St. Mark’s Preschool and Kindergarten almost immediately. When I say it changed my life, I am not exaggerating.

Being a teacher was the first thing I ever wanted to be. I was that kid playing ‘school’ at home, sometimes by myself, and other times I would rope my brother into playing too. You can imagine my happiness when I got a hand-me-down old school desk and foldable chair to complete my school! I would create homework booklets for my poor younger brother to complete each day, following my instruction, of course. I would sit him down and help him do the word searches and math problems that I had written. We would read books together and then finish our ‘school day’ with some art. It was a whole program!

Long-suffering brother not pictured here, although Humpty Dumpty is also a former student of mine!

Besides my unofficial teaching role with my brother, I hadn’t yet pursued teaching, although it was still an idea rattling around in my mind. When I moved to Tucson, I had the opportunity to volunteer in one of the pre-kindergarten classrooms at St. Mark’s. I spent one day a week with these amazing children and their teachers and immediately felt like this was something I was supposed to do. One day a week, I was immersed in the intricate lives of 4 and 5-year-old children, and I was able to watch how the teachers around me inspired their young students to explore their world and encouraged a sense of wonder. Just one day a week in the classroom reignited my early passion for education.

After a few weeks in this community, I knew that I had found my spark. I realized that this is what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t really have a choice; I was meant to be a teacher. I knew I wanted to spark that same curiosity and wonder in young children. And I knew that I wanted to be a permanent part of this community.

Building a community takes time, trust, respect, understanding, compassion, and above all, love. We have that. All you have to do is look around the classrooms, the playground, or even the walkways to feel that love. You will see photos of our school families and our home families in our classrooms. You will see children’s expressive artwork proudly hanging on the walls. You will see children engaged in meaningful and joyful activities. You will see children sharing books with one another. You will see teachers bending down to listen to children’s stories and hear teachers asking open-ended questions that foster children’s curiosity. You will see parents and families connecting with other families, teachers, and children. You will see our community. You will see our love.

There are days that I watch the interactions of the children in our school, and it warms my heart to see even the youngest children looking out for each other, giving advice to each other about how to solve a problem, and celebrating each other’s successes. Sometimes all you need is a helping hand or two!

Across our school, I see children reaching out to hold hands with each other, inviting peers to join their games, and welcoming new students into our community. When someone trips or falls, others rush over to help them up, offer them hugs, and get them wet paper towels (a common injury cure around here!). When you look deeper at these interactions, you see the children offering to connect with each other. They are inviting each other into their worlds, and as teachers, we get to be a part of that incredible journey.

Teaching young children can be magical, exciting, mind-blowing, and exhausting! Building brains is time-consuming work, but it is worth it when you see children confidently asking questions, exploring natural wonders, and showing kindness to each other. Watching children create their own micro-communities within our school is empowering. It helps you see the worth in what we pour our soul into every day of the year. It gives you hope for our future, with these fantastic children growing up and making a difference in their communities.

Community is at the heart of our school, and it is the community that is keeping the spirit of our school alive in Climbing Tree Community School. I am excited to see many familiar faces at Climbing Tree as we welcome new families into our community together.

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