Meet your Local Leader: Lisa Bridge, KinderCare Tribeca

Pre-school Director in Lower Manhattan

February 7, 2024

Please tell us a little about yourself, your background and what led you into educational leadership.

I entered the field of education seventeen years ago as one of the first cohorts of the New York City Teaching Fellows where I simultaneously earned an M.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street. Since I transitioned from business into education, it was a logical step to combine my management and educational backgrounds to operationally lead in an educational environment.

How long have you been with KinderCare? Where were you before this?

I’ve been with KinderCare for a year and a half.  Before KinderCare, I was the Direct Manager for all the NYC stores for Kidville and the Director of Preschool Operations and Curriculum for Kidville’s 40 stores.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I am a ground-level leader who believes in building community with my staff and giving them, especially teachers, ownership in decision-making and creative license.

What is your KinderCare’s philosophy? Teaching style? How do you encourage that kind of culture?

Our goal for our curriculum and every interaction we have with children is to instill whole child confidence and encourage children to become lifelong learners.

The road to whole child confidence and a lifelong love of learning is based on KinderCare’s research-based standards and assessments along six developmental domains:

Language and Literacy Development

  • Involves children’s abilities to convey their ideas, thoughts, and feelings through speaking and writing, and their ability to demonstrate early reading skills.

Executive Function

  • Focuses on the development of skills necessary for learning, such as self-regulation, attention, and persistence.

Social and Emotional Development

  • Supports children’s ability to express and regulate feelings and develop relations with others.

Physical Development and Wellness

  • Gives children opportunities to build large- and small muscle skills, strength, stamina, and knowledge needed to live a healthy lifestyle.

Cognitive Development

  • Supports the mental processes needed to think, make sense of the world, and understand knowledge across different subjects, including mathematics, science, and social studies.

Creative Expression

  • Helps children creatively explore the arts, movement, drama, and music.

This investment in developing the whole child - cognitive skills and social-emotional skills - results in greater effects on later-life outcomes. In fact, a study from TerraNova, a widely-used and reliable tool in assessing kindergartners and their readiness for elementary school, shows that kindergarten students who attended KinderCare Learning Centers are better prepared for first grade.

We also believe in the importance of accreditation in designating high-quality early learning programs. This includes evaluating curriculum, classroom observations, family feedback, health and safety checks, and staff evaluations. While fewer than 10 percent of early education programs in the United States are accredited, KinderCare has now reached nearly 100 percent accreditation for its 1,280 community learning centers across the country, making it the largest provider of accredited early learning in the U.S.

What advice would you give to a new teacher on his or her first year?

Start as a floating teacher so you can find the age group that you love. Teachers may sometimes think they are suited for a particular age group, but later find out that another one would be a better fit for them.

Do you have a separation process for kids entering school?

We customize separation based on the needs of each individual child and family. In general, we begin a week progression of separation the week before enrollment starts to help families through the process.

What strategies do you use to manage children with special educational needs?

KinderCare educators and families have access to the Education and Inclusion Services teams to ensure that children of all abilities have the opportunity for development and learning, and to experience a sense of belonging. Beyond the Inclusion Services team, KinderCare supports inclusion by providing all children access to our world-class curriculum programs, embracing inclusive participation in our programs, and offering support to our educators through training and consultation.

What steps would you take if you are dealing with a student discipline incident?

We first look at what we need to do to adjust to the needs of the student and find the triggers to the incidents. We then would work closely with the family and teachers to create a support plan to help the child react more positive behaviors and choices going forward.

How do you recruit and maintain quality teachers and staff members?

Through research conducted by Gallup, KinderCare found that the very best early childhood educators are not necessarily those with advanced preschool education degrees. Instead, we look for people with a genuine love for children and can thrive amidst the chaos that often occurs when working with young children who are exploring and learning to navigate the world.

We worked with Gallup to create a customized approach and an online assessment tool to help us select teachers who have the qualities that match the best teachers who already work for KinderCare. That way, we know we’re finding people who will be a great fit in our classrooms and who will create a wonderful experience for our children and families each and every day.

We support our teachers and staff by providing yearly training and staff development opportunities in addition to competitive salary and benefits, a friendly and creative atmosphere, and caring, skilled professionals for teammates.

What are some of your family favorite events that you host?

I love to host social gatherings where they have a chance to meet other families in the neighborhood and make new connections.

Please tell us what makes your school unique from others in the area?

The Tribeca Center was completely renovated to include 17 purpose-built rooms on two levels, each tailored to its children’s needs. There was intention in making sure classrooms were bright, inviting, and filled with educational toys and activities to encourage discovery and play.

We want to get to know you a little better. Let’s play a round of quick questions. Tell us the first thing that comes to your mind:

Where are you originally from? St. Louis

Do you have kids? How old are they? One, 1 year old!

In which Hogwarts house would you be sorted? Gryffindor

Your favorite movie? It’s a Wonderful Life

Your hidden talent? Guitarist

What is your dream vacation? A three-week trip to a variety of Mediterranean countries

What would the students be surprised to find out about you? That I was performing rock musician

What’s a typical Saturday night like for you? Seeing live music and going to museums

How do you spend your summer breaks? Down on LBI and Montauk

What are your “trapped on a desert island” books or movies? Biographies – I love history

What is your favorite dessert? Ice cream

What accomplishment fills you with pride? Building great teams and schools

Do you have a morning routine that gets you ready for school?  Getting my one-year-old dressed and out of the house

What inspires youPoetry

What is the best thing about being a principal? Helping shape the direction of children’s lives

Any advice you would like your students to remember, always?  Kindness matters more than anything else

A gift from your student/s that you value the most? Sharing how much fun they had doing something I helped create

Is there a quote or saying that you live your life by? “Keep the peace within yourself then bring the peace to others”

What song do you know all the lyrics to?  Every Dave Matthews song

Your favorite Spirit Day in school is…  Pajama day

Please offer some words of wisdom for the rest of us. Always thank your teachers – they are a huge part of who you have become.

Thank you!

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