Meet your Local Leader: Elisabeth Rothauser, My Little School

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’m an educator with 10 years of teaching experience, degrees in special education and gifted education, and have spent time in both public and private classrooms. I entered into educational leadership in order to continue my own learning on how to best support children, families and their different needs!

How long have you been with My Little School? Where were you before this?

This is my first year at My Little School. However,  I’ve worked in the East Village, on the Upper East Side, on Roosevelt Island and in TriBeCa before joining the team at My Little School. 

How would you describe your leadership style?

My leadership style is direct yet gentle and supportive. 

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

My Little School is a progressive, Reggio-inspired preschool. We believe in play-based, developmentally-appropriate practice. Our teachers are warm, loving, open, incredibly creative and genuinely enjoy working with very young children and their families. We encourage teachers to learn from and with each other, ask questions and take risks. We support teachers when they have growing interest in different areas through different types of professional development opportunities. 

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

Observe, ask questions, reflect, and enjoy!

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

We do have a separation process. We have a slow phase-in schedule that allows our youngest children to enter school slowly and build up to their full day. Our older children have a shorter phase-in, although we generally work to support each child and family in their differing needs. 

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

We have a team of wonderful teachers as well as administrators with special education experience. We take anecdotal notes, we observe, we try different strategies. We meet with parents to discuss what we’ve seen. We have specialists on staff who support our classrooms. We really believe it takes a village!

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

Rather than use the word discipline, we really think about natural consequences. Young children act with emotion, often not thinking about the outcome. A child who hits because they didn’t get a toy they wanted won’t be “put in time out,” however, there will be a conversation where the teachers model language the child could have used instead. The teacher helps name the emotion the child is feeling, and then the teacher helps the child negotiate the situation. 

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

We look for teachers who are aligned with our school’s beliefs and philosophy. We support our current teachers in their growing interest and education. We provide our staff with access to specialists who support their classrooms. We have a very close-knit staff who spend time together on the weekends as well!

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

We host a Block Party every Fall, where we close down a section of the street in front of our school. We have really fun games and activities for the entire neighborhood to enjoy!

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

Our school in a warm, nurturing environment where children blossom. We believe that a strong partnership with families is key to a child’s successful preschool career. Because we are a community, we enjoy long relationships with children and families even after the children move on from preschool.  

Thank you!

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