Bloomingdale was fortunate to have two student teachers who are also Bloomingdale alumni! Pauline Morales and Jasmin Castillo were students at Bloomingdale a few years apart, and both of them had Narcissa Said and Betty Lewis as teachers. Pauline, who is pursuing a degree at Teachers College in Early Childhood Education, and Jasmin, who is studying psychology and ECE at Fordham, were tremendous assets in the classroom.
Pauline studied psychology as an undergraduate, but was always drawn to working with young children. She remembers admiring Mrs. Cruz, her kindergarten teacher, and hoping to be just like her when she grew up. Psychology was a great field, but it didn’t feel right: she followed her heart into an Early Childhood master’s program at Teachers College.
We asked her what she was like as a preschooler, and whether she sees any similarities between her younger self and the children she works with now: “I think as a preschooler I enjoyed being with others but I also enjoyed being by myself, because this is honestly how I am now. I consider myself to be social but I enjoy quiet time and being at peace, so I’m sure I reflected both types of interests in preschool. I see similarities in the children and myself as a preschooler when they’re all engaging in unstructured play and working on their pieces with concentration and dedication, because I used to play the same way.“
She shared some of her observations about her experience at Bloomingdale:
“Children love to play. It is a child’s work and the children at Bloomingdale are no different. I think Bloomingdale is a special place to be because of all of the different toys available. The variety of toys is one of my most memorable experiences because it is what taught me certain skills, such as problem solving, a skill that I may not have learned or would take me a little longer to learn if they weren’t offered in the classroom. Additionally, my teachers during my time there were amazing, kind, and loving, and Bloomingdale continues to staff such exceptional teachers in their classrooms.“
Pauline’s contributions were warmly appreciated. Here is what the teacher in the 4s classroom had to say: “Children would gravitate towards her, because she would would fully involve herself in their play…since Pauline was so engaged with the children, she was able to identify the children’s strengths and areas where they needed more support. Pauline would think and discuss with the teachers ideas and activities that would help and support children’s developmental growth. It was a pleasure to work with Pauline.”
Pauline working in a 4s classroom Pauline at age 4
Jasmin is presently a psychology student at Fordham. Her primary goal is to develop school-based prevention and intervention programs to keep young people out of prison. Her studies led to the realization that teachers’ race and gender-related biases can influence student outcomes and engagement, and that these biases can affect students as early as preschool. This brought her to Early Childhood Education, and her internship at Bloomingdale.
We asked her what it was like to be back at Bloomingdale: “Being in the classroom was a great experience. The kids are so funny and clever, it was amazing to see all the things they come up with. I do not think spending time in the classroom allowed me to remember more about my own time at Bloomingdale, but it certainly made me nostalgic. I also had the opportunity to see one of my own teachers who I had not seen in about 16 years. She seemed to remember who I was the moment I said, “I’m the one who cried a lot…I was well known for crying when my parents would drop me off…One similarity I did see that I appreciated was the fact that the use of the family area has not changed too much. Regardless of the advances in technology, the children are still playing with the dolls and not just leaving their dolls to “watch something” on a device. The children did use the blocks less than I did when I was in preschool, which was interesting to see…the day-to-day student experience seems to be what I remember of my time at Bloomingdale. This is clearly a great system and all the Bloomingdale graduates I know have gone on to do some pretty amazing things so I have great hopes for the students with whom I worked this semester. “
The teacher who worked with Jasmine commented: “I remember Jasmine well – she was very helpful in the classroom, especially with children who were challenging. She used to interact with the children, and engage them in long conversations. She would check with us about the behaviors she observed, and ask detailed questions about how to best help the children. She also was very prompt, and would come in for extra hours at short notice.”
Jasmin at Bloomingdale with teacher Betty Lewis in the 4s classroom.
Jasmin back at Bloomingdale, working with 3s.
Thank you, Pauline and Jasmin, for your contributions to our classrooms!
Note from José Velilla, Executive Director:
Bloomingdale staff and Board continue to take great pride in the impact we have on the children and families of the Upper West Side/Manhattan Valley Community. We feel especially proud and moved when we see alumni return to the classrooms where they help current students develop the skills and attitudes which contributed to their own success.
We get a great sense of fulfillment when alumni tell us how Bloomingdale gave them that all important first opportunity to become life-long learners and pursue their dreams.We look forward to the time when our current crop of students returns as young women and men to tell us what the Bloomingdale experience meant to them.
Photographs © Laura Dwight/Bloomingdale Family Program