Student working with young children

At the Andy Taylor Center for Early Childhood Development, the classrooms have taken shape: fresh coats of paint are up on the walls and multicolored carpet is being laid on the floors.

The rooms will soon be filled with items ranging from pinecones and acorns to oversized paper and paintbrushes – tools of learning and exploration for the young children who will soon bring fresh energy and vitality to the former lumberyard building in downtown Farmville, just a few blocks from Longwood’s central campus.

Some children will create their own music, or dance to a favorite song. Others will create self-portraits, or create a play based on a book they just read.

On October 2, the doors will open to the Andy Taylor Center’s first group of eager and energetic young children to begin exploring and learning. The early childhood learning program will serve both Longwood families and members of the community at large, and the preschool program is just one part of the Taylor Center’s multi-faceted approach to meeting a widely identified urgent area of need across Southside, Virginia. The Taylor Center will not only expand the community’s capacity to offer high-quality early childhood programs, but it will also serve as an academic teaching and research center that will help train Longwood graduates to work in this critical field, and  as a staff development and resource center for other area providers.

Longwood is proud to be at the forefront of providing more capacity in this important area and making Farmville an even better place for families.

Dr. Sara Miller, director of the Early Childhood Development Initiative and associate professor of education

“We’re very excited to be able to open this fall and serve the community with a forward-thinking early care and education option,” said Dr. Sara Miller, director of the Early Childhood Development Initiative and associate professor of education. “We’re focused on creating a diverse and inclusive learning environment for children with various needs, and will open our doors this fall to a group of young children who will direct their own learning and develop lifelong skills like collaboration, flexibility, and critical thinking.”

“We know from research and experience that high-quality early childhood education is one of the best long-term investments any community can make,” Miller said. “Longwood is proud to be at the forefront of providing more capacity in this important area and making Farmville an even better place for families.”

Applications for children between ages 2 ½ and 5 will begin to be accepted online at www.longwood.edu/andytaylorcenter beginning Monday, August 21. Information about tuition and hours is currently available on the website.

The Andy Taylor Center will implement a Reggio Emilia-style approach to early childhood education, a model highly regarded by experts in the field that allows children to explore their environment based on their interests and gives them the tools to express themselves through “a hundred languages.”

“The goal is to teach children as many different ways to express themselves as possible—through art, drama, observation, or any other medium,” said Miller. “This approach has been used to great success across the world, and the curriculum is shaped to each child’s interests. It will be great to watch each child develop according to their own pace and personality.”

In practice, teachers present children with various activities and materials and actively watch, question and document each child’s experience to better plan both individual and class activities. Each class is limited to 18 students, and there are always two adults in each room, including a lead teacher.

The Taylor Center’s new site director, Kim Hailey ’03, M.S. ‘09, is a veteran teacher who has worked in both the public and private sectors and grew up in the area. For the last several years she has taught at a local preschool.

“We are starting with a firm leadership foundation, which gives us a leg up as the center gets started and expands over time,” said Miller. “Kim is extremely well-respected for her commitment to children and education, so we are opening our doors feeling positive about what lies ahead.”

Applications for teaching positions are open at www.longwood.edu/hr.

The Andy Taylor Center for Early Childhood Development is endowed by a gift from Longwood alumna Jane Richardson Taylor ’71, who has led a preschool program at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in Leesburg for the last 16 years, after a career as a middle- and high-school administrator. The center is named for her first child.

Taylor will be honored at a dedication for the center on October 20.

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