Meet your Local Leader: Jessica Pollard, The Learning Experience

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 grew up in New Jersey and went to Indiana University for my undergraduate degree. Then, I returned to New Jersey to study at Montclair State University for my graduate degree. During that time, I taught at a preschool in Montclair before moving to New York City and becoming a Preschool Director. I was then hired by The Learning Experience as a business manager to help open their first Manhattan location. I have since helped grow the school and transitioned into the role of Managing Director and I love it! 

How long have you been with The Learning Experience? Where were you before this?

I have been with The Learning Experience since 2011; we opened the doors to our Manhattan location in April 2012. It has been amazing to watch our school open and grow throughout the years! Prior to joining The Learning Experience, I worked at another preschool in NYC and also taught 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s in Montclair, New Jersey while I was in graduate school. 

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe in working as team, listening to everyone’s input and building off of each other’s strengths. I think it is really important to set a good tone, be a supportive team leader, and to create a safe and happy work environment. I also feel it is important to provide the guidance and positive encouragement to lead our staff to be the best they can be each day for our students. 

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

Choosing a school can be an overwhelming experience. It is our desire to make that experience an easy one. We do so by offering the highest standards of childcare and education in a warm, friendly atmosphere. Our philosophy is to give each child a secure environment in which they can have fun, gain self-confidence, develop intellectually and become well-rounded, happy individuals.

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

The best advice I would give a new teacher in his or her first year is to learn and grow from both the kids and their coworkers, utilize the resources, tools and support provided and never stop being creative!

Do you have a separation process for kids entering school?

I recommend doing an ease-in schedule to help with separation. This is something we create on an individual basis with families to work around schedules and to do what is best for their child. 

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

I feel it’s important to work with the teachers and families to provide the best support and resources available based on the individual needs of the student. I think consistency is really important and making sure everyone is on the same page to give the student the tools they need to help them learn and grow. 

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

I think it is important to make sure the discipline is age-appropriate and to work with the student to help them understand what happened and how we can change that behavior moving forward. I think some great tools as an educator would be to help model appropriate behavior, get on the child’s level when talking to them, redirection, and follow up. I also make sure to speak to the child’s family to help reinforce what was discussed at school and to make sure the child understands that home-school communication is present. 

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

We use different resources and tools to recruit our incredible staff.  We love to network with local early childhood education programs. Our process starts with a phone interview followed by an in-person interview and then they are invited into the classroom to do an in-class demo to show their skills.  We spend a lot of time recruiting and training our teachers and we are lucky that many of our teachers have been with us for many years.

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

I love celebrating holidays, birthdays and milestones with our students. My favorite family event we host is our annual Halloween Bubbles Spooky Bash! It’s a well-known event in Battery Park City and opened to our TLE families as well as the greater community.

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

I think our Learning Experience Academic Program Curriculum, the longevity of our teachers, and our strong TLE community really makes our program unique. From the moment you walk through the doors and see the bright colors, TLE characters, and smiles you can see how the children enjoy their days spent learning, playing and growing. 

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

I am a student at heart and love to go for trainings and continue to educate myself from articles and peers. We have a wonderful network of downtown educators that share resources for each other that I love!

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?  I grew up in New Jersey.

Do you have kids? I don’t have kids yet.

Your favorite movie? A League of Their Own

Your hidden talent? Incredible eyesight and hearing- perfect for a preschool director!

What is your dream vacation? Australia 

What would the students be surprised to find out about you? I don’t like oranges.

What’s a typical Saturday night like for you? A concert- I love music.

How do you spend your summer breaks? We have an amazing summer camp program so I spend my summers at The Learning Experience Battery Park and usually take one vacation as well. This year I went to Greece.

What is your favorite dessert? Frozen yogurt.

What accomplishment fills you with pride? I love graduation day at TLE but it’s always an emotional one!

Do you have a morning routine that gets you ready for school? I love coming to work each morning to see the wonderful smiles that greet me each day but I don’t have a typical morning routine. 

What inspires you? People who are working to make the world a better place for our children.

What is the best thing about being a principal? Our students and their amazing families.

An advice you would like your students to remember, always? Always remember your days at TLE and come visit us, share your next chapter and DREAM BIG!

A gift from your student/s that you value the most? I save and cherish everything my students and teachers give me.

Is there a quote or saying that you live your life by? “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” -Eleanor Roosevelt.

What song do you know all the lyrics to? Many! I am a big music fan.

Your favorite Spirit Day in school is… Pajama Day!

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

I think it is important to make sure we teach kindness, provide a safe environment for kids to be able to be kids, and help them build the foundation of the love of learning to nurture their creative minds!

Thank you!

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