Meet your Local Leader: Linda Ensko, Buckle My Shoe

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 am the daughter of an educator. My passion for teaching young children began early when I started taking care of young children at ten years old. I have a Bachelor's degree in Child Development and a Masters in Early Childhood Leadership from Bank Street College. 

How long have you been with Buckle My Shoe? Where were you before this?

I am the creator, founder, and visionary for Buckle My Shoe. It has been a thirty-seven year journey! Before that, I taught kindergarten and second grade in a private school.

How would you describe your leadership style?

My leadership style is very hands-on. Along with a strong administrative team, we offer lots of support for our educators. We use top consultants for ongoing training and support our educators by giving them ample time to reflect on and document children’s daily thinking.

What is Buckle My Shoe’s philosophy? Teaching style? How do you encourage that kind of culture?

I would consider our philosophy to be a blend of different ideas. We are certainly very inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to education, which emphasizes the idea that children are capable and competent beings who deserve to have a powerful voice in their own learning. We are also influenced by the Constructivist approach which supports the idea that learning is a search for meaning, not the memorization of “right” answers. The academic foundation is embedded in our curriculum through hands-on, developmentally appropriate, and enjoyable learning experiences.  

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

Be patient, work hard, and ask lots of questions!

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

We have a very gradual and natural separation process. Parents or caregivers stay with the child until they are ready to be on their own. Timing, of course, varies from child to child but with educator and family support the process happens pretty quickly. The key is to create an environment and community where children can develop a sense of trust and a feeling of safety.  

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

All children learn differently. The early years are especially important in terms of recognizing learning challenges and providing support for children. We differentiate instruction to meet the individual needs of all learners. Through ongoing observation, documentation, and communication we are able to address and develop strategies for an optimal learning experience. Sometimes, children may need additional support, i.e. speech, occupational or physical therapy. These professionals often work alongside children within our school.

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

We take a loving approach to discipline and model appropriate behavior and language. I find that consistency and clear routines are the keys to promoting positive prosocial interactions. The best way to avoid negative behaviors is to set a child up for success!

When conflict arises we talk with children and problem-solve together. As they get older, we support them in learning to resolve conflicts more independently, help them recognize their feelings and give them the tools and language to self-solve.

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

We select teachers who are passionate about early childhood education and experts in their field. We use world-renowned consultants to provide ongoing education. Teachers are given time daily to collaborate with other educators, attend meetings, mentor each other, and reflect on the learning of each child in the classroom.

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

At Buckle My Shoe, parents attend potlucks, holiday parties, charity events, and curriculum celebrations. Our team of class parents organizes fun get-togethers within each classroom. 

We have also hosted developmental workshops that are open to the public.

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

Buckle My Shoe works individually with each child and supports their unique learning experiences. We build a child’s self-esteem through their work and collaboration with other children. Here, children are empowered and develop a strong sense of independence, responsibility, and empathy.

Educators, parents, and children are working in a collaborative partnership to ensure an amazing experience and to build a strong academic foundation.  When a child leaves Buckle My Shoe they are truly ready for the next steps in education.

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

Two favorites…

The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel

Everything Has a Shadow, Except Ants by Stefano Sturloni and Vea Vecchi

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? Glen Cove, NY

Do you have kids? How old are they? Yes, two daughters, 29 and 26 years old

Your favorite movie? Bridesmaids

Your hidden talent? I love water sports!

What is your dream vacation? Renting an RV and spending time exploring national parks

What would the students be surprised to find out about you? That I am a mermaid!  I could live in the water.

What’s a typical Saturday night like for you? Having dinner with my husband by the fire in my country house. 

How do you spend your summer breaks? Going to the ocean

What are your “trapped on a desert island” books or movies? A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle or anything that has to do with travel.

What is your favorite dessert? Tiramisu

What accomplishment fills you with pride?  Buckle My Shoe and my children!

Do you have a morning routine that gets you ready for school? I meditate every day.

What inspires you? Children

What is the best thing about being a principal? Creating a strong community of educators and building relationships with children and parents

An advice you would like your students to remember, always? Follow your heart and your passions.  Be a good friend.

A gift from your student/s that you value the most? Pictures and portraits they make for me

Is there a quote or saying that you live your life by? “Be brave enough to live life creatively.  The creative place where no else has ever been.” - Alan Alda

What song do you know all the lyrics to? “American Pie”

Your favorite Spirit Day in school is… Halloween is my favorite day at Buckle My Shoe. Children work with their teachers and parents to create their own costumes. Then we parade around the neighborhood and have a big party back at school afterward.

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

Be grateful each day!

Thank you!

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