Meet your Local Leader: Allison Tylek, Bright Beginnings

Pre-school Director in Lower Manhattan

By Anu Kapur, Publisher, Lower Manhattan Macaroni KID & Upper West Side Macaroni KID February 7, 2024

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

I have always known that I wanted to work with children ever since I was a little girl. My passion for children and early education sprouted my desire to think beyond the classroom and do more. Therefore education leadership was the next step. I receive my undergraduate degree in early childhood and special education, and a master’s degree in childhood literacy education.

How long have you been with Bright Beginnings NYC? Where were you before this?

I have been at Bright Beginnings NYC for about 2.5 yrs. Before this, I worked as a special education therapist and provided both early intervention therapies in the household as well as push-in therapies for students in their schools as well. 

How would you describe your leadership style?

I would describe my leadership style as progressive, passionate, organized, and determined. I absolutely love my field and the work that we do here, and I want to make sure my staff feed off that energy every day and bring it to the classroom. It is also important to have a positive relationship with your staff as well, especially in these more progressive times where traditional desks, tasks and common practices can be a thing of the past. Because we are such a small and intimate community here, it is important that all staff not only commit to their goals and expectations but that they do so through teamwork. We act as more of a cohort than a pyramid system. It’s positive and works for us! In addition to this though, it is of the utmost importance to make sure everything is organized and well managed. Any teacher, regardless of which school they work in, will confirm that even fun has to be organized at times. It allows the children to be free spirited, lead their own curriculum, and have fun. Lastly, my determination is what leads me through each year. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always looked beyond the classroom and I am still doing that to this day. I will continue to search of new ways to teach, new activities we can add, and expand our program as much as possible in whatever way possible. Be on the lookout!

What is Bright Beginnings’ philosophy? Teaching style? How do you encourage that kind of culture?

The Bright Beginnings NYC philosophy is that the child’s natural curiosities are of the greatest importance. It’s these curiosities that will help mold and sculpt their own learning in the most organic and engaging manner. This philosophy is reflected in the teaching style implemented in the classroom as well as the overall culture of the school. Monthly themes are chosen at the beginning of every month and are solely inspired by the children’s play. In addition, it is the children who get to vote every month for the upcoming theme, so the lessons and activities are always changing as we move forward. This is both reflected in the 2s/3s teaching program, as well as the older 3s/4s program. 

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

The first year of teaching is the most difficult for everyone. There is a reason that early childhood education is one of the most exhausting fields there are, but it is also one of the most fulfilling! Definitely keep this in mind as you venture through. 

For a teacher beginning their first year I would say this, you need to build a tough exterior. This job is not for the weak as many consider it to be. But just remember, for every tear you shed (and there will be plenty), for every report you stay up late doing, for any parent that shouts in your face, for any meetings you didn’t feel confident about, for any potty training disasters, scraped knees, and lost articles of clothing…. take a deep breathe, and keep pushing forward. At the end of the year not only will you have seen every single child in your class grow, but you should have noticed yourself growing as well. And for that you should be thankful. Again, there is nothing like your first year, but you can do it, especially with the right staff and support behind you. If you are passionate about it then keep pushing forward. It truly is one of the most rewarding fields to be in. 

Do you’ll have a separation process for kids entering school?

Yes. When a new student begins the program we have a transition week. During this time we gradually transition the student into the class and extend their day little by little until they reach the full schedule. For example, the first day will be two hours, the second will be three hours, etc. However, if we see that the child has acclimated quite quickly, we can extend their days much sooner. In addition, we do review with parents how to say goodbye at the door. At Bright Beginnings NYC we practice short goodbyes and long hellos. The reason for this is that the longer the parent stands in the doorway the longer the goodbye process will be, which in turn may make the child cry or have their anxiety increase. If the parent does a short goodbye, then the child can join into play with their teacher and friends much sooner. We do also recommend long hellos. This is a time that can be a little extended as it is expanding on a happy period versus a sad period such as “goodbye time”. 

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

We provide an open program at Bright Beginnings NYC, which means that we allow children of all abilities to attend. Although we are technically a general education program, if a child requires push in services we will permit it as long as the schedules coincide. Having a special education background myself, I understand the importance of providing the best education and interactive curriculum for all children’s learning aptitudes. 

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

At Bright Beginnings NYC we practice the 3 Rs; reminders, re-enforcers, and re-direction. If a child is displaying difficulty in a specific center, we may ask them to get a water break, remind them to keep a calm and gentle body, and come back and try again. It is important for the child to not give up but rather keep on trying. The second is using a reinforcement technique. If reminders of positive behaviors are not working and the child is still having difficulty, a teacher can use something the child enjoys as a re-enforcement. For example, maybe a special job, such as lunch helper, if they remember to clean up nicely, etc. The third technique is just a simple re-direction. It is very important that each and every child have a successful day at school. If we have tried the other two techniques and the child continues to have trouble, we will re-direct them to another activity in hopes of them having success there. Then perhaps the next day we can try the original center again. 

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

Our staff at Bright Beginnings NYC is very important to us. Because we are such an intimate program we currently only have 5 teachers on staff. It is imperative, however, to make sure that the team we have working in the classroom is knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate. Every teacher is subject to specific qualifications based on the role they will be assuming as well as a phone interview, in-person interview, and model lesson implementation. In addition, I hold my staff to very high standards as well and I can happily say they are all meeting them both on an individual level and as a team. 

What are some of your family favorite events that you host? Do you host any that are open to the public?

We get to host a few events during the year for our parents. Some of these include our Thanksgiving feast, Halloween school parade, mother’s day brunch, and father’s day brunch. It is wonderful to have the parents come in and spend time with their child and the children love showing their work to their parents. Unfortunately, we do not have events that are open to the public as of yet. 

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

Bright Beginnings NYC is a progressive creative-based program where the child really takes the lead in creating their own curriculum. All lessons and activities are formulated to optimize each child’s engagement in a topic of their choosing. This is quite specific to our program as most schools are required to align with pre-existing curriculums, which may keep them from trying something new. In addition, the parent community also play an integral role in our school and we rely heavily on them for input. For example, this year we were able to integrate four new extracurriculars proposed by the parent. Because we are a smaller program, we have a lot more freedom to create an exploratory and whimsical environment that promotes “whole child learning” in a safe, nurturing, and invigorating way. It is honestly a complete pleasure to see how the children grow throughout the year in this preschool. 

Strong leaders are constantly learning. What is a great book or resource that has helped you grow and that you would recommend to others?

One of the most amazing “educator type” books I have ever read was actually on my undergraduate syllabus. I have also given it to all my teachers as training reading. It is the Read Aloud Book by Jim Trelease. What is wonderful about this text is that it provides you with tips and tricks not only for read alouds but how to connect with students through literacy. And literacy is one of the most fundamental building blocks of not only preschool, but all future learning. The literature is easy to read and though it may not seem exciting at first, I could not put it down the first time I read it. In addition, it has a spectacular library of early childhood texts that can be used in the classroom and for what topics. It is truly a great resource for any teacher or educator to have. 

In addition, I am also currently reading a few more new books by female entrepreneurs on leadership and female determination in business. 

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? New Jersey

Do you have kids? How old are they? Not yet. 

In which Hogwarts house would you be sorted? Ravenclaw/Slytherine (My coworkers helped me with this one)

Your favorite movie? House of Sand and Fog, and Life is Beautiful

Your hidden talent? My coworkers would say that I have a special way of connecting with children.

What is your dream vacation? I absolutely love traveling! I would love to explore Asia more. 

What would the students be surprised to find out about you? I’m actually really silly!

What’s a typical Saturday night like for you? Ordering Thai food, getting comfy on the couch and watching TV or a movie

How do you spend your summer breaks? Our wonderful program is offered all year round including the summer! We have a lovely summer program that we all take part in for July and August. 

What are your “trapped on a desert island” books or movies? I am actually a huge fan of podcasts so I would most likely have that. I eat up anything health, wellness, and entrepreneurship.

What is your favorite dessert? Fro-yo

What accomplishment fills you with pride? Running a successful program! It is such a joy to see both parents and students smiling every day. Especially with retaining a full roster this past year and next year as well, the standards and goals of the program continue to be achieved and surpassed. 

Do you have a morning routine that gets you ready for school? Absolutely! My morning and evening routines are very important to me. They set me up for my day, and help calm me down at night. My morning routine is as follows: I wake up (around 5:30/6am) and immediately do my bed. I do not like having an untidy space and I think doing your bed just helps you get organized for the day. Then, I shower (while listening to a podcast) and heat up some hot water with lemon. I make my lunch, get dressed while watching the news, and organize my bag for work. On my way out, I take my vitamins and drink my lemon water, and then it’s off to the train!

What inspires you? I am inspired by so many things, but right now I do have to say it maybe some of the wonderful women entrepreneurs I have been listening to on my podcasts. Some of them include Natanya Bravo, Nicole Lapin, Kelly LeVeque, and Jaclyn Johnson. All from different fields but all building their dreams in their own ways. 

What is the best thing about being a principal? It is amazing to lead such a strong and passionate team, to see the success of the program and watch it grow. Hopefully, we will be able to expand our classrooms soon too. 

Any advice you would like your students to remember, always? Be kind, be tolerant, and always be yourself.

A gift from your student/s that you value the most? When they internalize your teaching and begin implementing it on their own. 

Is there a quote or saying that you live your life by? “Be the energy you want to attract”

What song do you know all the lyrics to? ABCs

Your favorite Spirit Day in school is… My birthday happens to fall on Halloween, so all the students dress up on my special day. It’s lovely!

Please offer some words of wisdom for the rest of us.

To all other educators, keep doing your best, you are changing the world one heart and mind at a time. 

Thank you!

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