As a mother, I know how important it is to better understand those who work with our children. I thought hearing about some of my personal and professional experiences could help you better understand my areas of expertise as well as my vision and goals for Child•cor and finally, if the program is right for you.
My vast experience comes from a professional background in general and special education with a master’s degree in Literacy and certifications in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Yoga and Meditation for children. For the past 16 years, I’ve taught both elementary and middle school in New York, USA; Budapest, Hungary; Shanghai, China and currently, Erlangen, Germany.
How do I channel my experiences into supporting you and your child’s journey? To begin, I would like to share with you, my own experiences both professionally and personally. Here, you will understand my journey, my purpose and how my experiences have shaped Child•cor into the perfect platform to provide you with the expert help you need.
I taught for about 8 years throughout New York State. This period was both rewarding and challenging for me as it brought me some defining moments that made me re-evaluate my goals going forward.
For example, there was a time, in certain areas of the state that if a student failed a “certain” test, they were automatically held back at that grade level. So on test day, as you can imagine, the students were full of anxiety.
It was absolutely horrible! My heart broke for them. I would do everything humanly possible, short of giving them the answers, to put their nerves at ease. Not only were these students under a lot of stress, the situation seemed to only get worse as they faced each paper. I could only imagine how much anxiety and strain they had to face without being able to do much about it!
I was told, however, that the most important thing I could do was to push the most nervous students’ desks near the door. This was because if they vomited and passed a certain number question we had to grade the test. However, if they were pulled before that question, they had the opportunity to retake the test. On a separate occasion, I had a student soil his pants. Have I mentioned that these students were 8 years old? At this point, I thought, “Gosh, something is really wrong here.”
Several years later, I was laid off due to budget cuts. Talk about making lemonade out of your lemons, while it was all very scary for me, I decided to teach abroad. I have a massive passion for learning about children and cultures all over the world and more specifically teaching children about cultures all over the world.
Soon enough, I accepted a job offer at an international school in Budapest, Hungary. I was extremely lucky and little did I know the life-changing adventure I was about to embark on. It was there in Budapest that I watched an episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass. The episode talked about the benefits of children writing daily affirmations. I loved the idea so much I decided to introduce it in my 3rd grade classroom. Every Monday, each student entered the room with a sticky note on their desk. They were encouraged to write something they believed positive about themselves. They could write it anonymously if they wanted, although having the students feel comfortable highlighting their own positive traits, even via one sentence on a sticky note, was a long term goal. Their sticky-noted daily affirmations were touching to read: “I have beautiful eyes,” or “I am a good daughter.” By our holiday concert in December all students happily welcomed a video, sharing their affirmations to all parents and children in the entire grade level. I was struck by how their self-confidence had grown in such a short time.
For my second year in Budapest, I was offered the position as the elementary school drama teacher. In becoming an elementary drama teacher at an international school I thought I possibly had a shot at incorporating some “not so traditional” teaching methods successfully. I didn’t have to adhere to government issued “agendas.” I could just teach drama, without all that extra drama.
I had no idea what the job would actually entail, but it turned out to be the most rewarding and successful teaching experience I had ever had. It became a true avenue to teach my students holistically. My first priority was to create an environment where all students felt safe. By feeling free to be themselves... There would be no bullying, nor judgment, just acceptance and appreciation for others and for themselves. I started every class with five minutes of meditation and five minutes of yoga. How do you get a room full of hyperactive kids to mediate and practice yoga? At first it wasn’t easy, but by week three, I had students asking me how they could mediate at home or if I could review “tree pose.” The positive feedback from my students kept coming. One of them actually shared with me that their “angry person is now calm.”
As I watched 15 – 20 children lie down in complete stillness and presence I felt inspired and motivated to share these practices with others. Experiencing the little ones dance around during our Sun Salutation Yoga Dance brought me so much joy. Not only that, but drama class became a place where kids could be kids: where we used objects to create new objects, where we were able to explore, be imaginative and let go. From there I began an after-school program for Improvisation. Why Improv? Because isn’t that what we did as children: create castles out of wood and blankets? We improvised with what we had. We didn’t have technology to create images in our mind for us. My after school group resulted in a successful program…with a waiting list! They, all on their own, built a sense of community. Bullying one another was not even a thought. This was a family where improvisation supported collaborative work to create an unprepared scene where everyone had to rely on their partners. I saw self-confidence take root because with improvisation there are no wrong answers.
Through these experiences, what I realized was that while I may not have been teaching arithmetic or the science of gravity, I was teaching how to be proud of yourself, how to accept yourself and others, appreciate your peers, and how to be present, which collectively enhanced the learning of all of their common branch subjects. I was teaching the whole child!
It was truly a learning process for me as I re-discovered and reaffirmed my beliefs of just how much passion, creativity and self-confidence every child is capable of. A principle that continues to be a part of Childcor today!
Towards the end of my stay in Budapest, I experienced something on my own personal bucket list. Along with my dear friend Molly, I was able to be on an episode of Oprah's Lifeclass speaking to Oprah and Pastor Rick Warren on his book, Purpose Driven Life. Oprah then told me that I didn't need to change the world just yet, but to start in my own backyard. An advice I'll forever remember.
I moved back to the United States and my excitement to return to those “government issued agendas” we so sadly experience in today’s classrooms was dim. Shortly after, I received a note from my friend Molly saying, “Looks like you’re smarter than the Dalai Lama!” At first I was confused by what she had meant but then I saw that attached was the quote by the Dalai Lama…
“If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”
Inspired, I decided to do some more research. Could my gut instincts of the importance of wellness for children be on others’ minds as well? Now, do I know if the Dalai Lama is absolutely accurate? I am not sure and I do not claim that Child•cor will end violence in the world. I DO know, from my own personal experience, that yoga, meditation, positive affirmations and dramatic arts supports a much needed sense of self-confidence, caring for others, presence and peace in children.
All of these re-energized me as not only had I seen great results with helping children discover their potentials and assisting them to attain their own versions of positive energy and self-confidence, I realized that all of these were transferable to just about any child in any part of the world. All it takes is expert guidance, help and positive connection with the child.
Soon after, I had the opportunity to listen to another Lifeclass with the modern spiritual gurus at the time. I was in the zone as the topic of discussion was adult well-being, an area of focus that I loved and looked forward to learning about. It was truly phenomenal that I got to experience real life sessions that talked about an area that applied to both young children and adults. Here, the subject area was gratitude, self-love and all topics on ADULT well-being. It all started to make more sense!
As I learned more, I began to connect the dots and it all clicked! Could it be possible that we create this culture in our children and then there is no need for this "new" practice as adults? Cultivate a culture of peace, gratitude and international mindedness and create a more peaceful world?
I put pen to paper and wrote the Child•cor curriculum. I did extensive global research on what aspects of a child's "heart" needed the most support. I wrote lessons on gratitude, self-love, international mindedness and many more. Honoring Oprah's original advice and keeping it in my own backyard, I launched Child•cor, the wellness program, in Thornwood, New York on August 3, 2013 offering classes every Saturday. The program was so well-accepted that I just kept pushing myself harder and harder to make a greater impact.
Many children with anxiety gravitated towards the program and this pulled at my heart's strings. It was especially fascinating to me as I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and panic disorder at 21 years old. This made me realize that I was in the best position to offer children and their parents the wealth of help and support they need. While I would not wish an anxiety disorder on my worst enemy, I strongly believe now that it is in fact a gift as I can share my personal experiences with you.
Here’s the thing with anxiety disorder, regardless of your educational background or the type of university degrees you may have, it is almost impossible to know the pain of a panic attack until you have experienced one.
I refused medication and thrust myself into CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. I learned then, that dealing with anxiety is not just sitting a few minutes a day in stillness or doing some yoga poses... it was a mindset, a lifestyle.
After a couple of years managing the program in New York, I yet again was incredibly lucky to be offered a position as a Year 4/Grade 3 teacher at a British international school in Shanghai, China. There, I was also the Service Coordinator and a member of the Wellbeing Committee.
In addition, I coached my fabulous colleagues back in New York as they motivated children through the Child•cor program, but I was also fortunate enough to be able to bring the Child•cor program to Shanghai where I reached many more children from such a variety of cultural backgrounds.
Why did I choose to relocate AGAIN? This is a big question I get asked a lot especially from my father.
Child•cor is my passion and its true goal is to connect children worldwide on a mission for kindness and peace. Fortunately, my experience was allowing me to do just that. During my time in China, I was able to participate in a mission trip to the Philippines to help tutor children and continue to build their school. I was able to visit the home of a wonderful woman and her 12 adopted special needs children, in a rural town in China. I volunteered in the local orphanages.
I created an after school program supporting the work of the organization "Girls Rising". This was a groundbreaking project where the girls and I created a beautiful video to raise awareness on the values of the girl child.
Our goal was huge, to ensure that girls everywhere are empowered and educated. A task that we were determined to bring to fruition with everything in our power.
The United Nations Global Goals posted our video, on their social media platforms, which you can see under the “Press” tab on our website. Most importantly, the Child•cor children in both New York and Shanghai were able to create videos weekly, discussing topics like gratitude and managing emotions. They realized how they are all alike and yet so uniquely different. They learned about and grew a new appreciation for one another's cultures, traditions and beliefs.
Every school year I tell my students about the children I met in the Philippines. After a week with them, they led me through the rainforest, the same journey they took each day to walk to school after leaving their one room bamboo built homes, and by the end of the journey they handed me souvenirs. On the walk, they each made me a toy out of palm. One made me a box to toss around and one made me a bag to keep my money in. Yes, all on a short walk, out of palm. This delighted them! What delights you?
Throughout my time in China, I embarked on the most rewarding, life-altering journey I think I may ever take. I adopted the sweetest and most beautiful little girl. This journey forced me to close Child•cor for a brief period to focus on being a new mom and I am glad I made that choice!
Seeing life through her eyes gave me a new perspective on my own life. I chose to adopt from China because it was very important to me that I adopt a girl from a country where girls were not well respected. I had hoped to learn about her culture to better support her appreciation of it throughout her life. It was then that I realized I myself had been passing judgment on a culture I can admit, I didn’t know much about.
Once living in the culture, building friendships with the locals and listening to their stories, I better understood the idea of sharing stories and listening with an open-mind. The quote, “we all bleed the same blood” had new meaning. Things then changed in my classroom. My purpose became even clearer and Child•cor began to take on new form. Not only was I passionate about caring for “the hearts of our little ones” and their well-being, but in doing so, I wanted to connect children on common issues, to give them real-life evidence of how it is exactly that we all “bleed the same blood”. Could this type of work support world peace, if we better understood one another’s cultures and actually chatted about it?
It was exciting! These experiences not only helped me further develop my goals for Child•cor, it provided me with a unique view and a refreshed skill set honed to bring value to the children I work with and their parents/caregivers. I earned a new appreciation for the creativity of children and discovered the impact of healthy communication. Wouldn’t you like to connect with your child and understand their needs by building a healthy and positive relationship with them?
Our next step
Child•cor's new "face" includes a blog that acts as a resource for parents and teachers to investigate the most popular issues. Its aim is to create discussion between parents and child professionals, globally, sharing experiences, best practices and advice to make our children the most successful they can be.
Exciting new packages coming your way
In the interim, I am creating an exciting, fun and inspiring online workshop directed at children ages 6-12 to meet all Child•cor’s goals. We’ve got loads of other packages and plans for the future and we can’t wait to bring them to you! If you would like to become a part of our community and get access to all of the discussions, interactions and professional advice from child experts, simply visit our blog and join in.
Join our community
To get updates, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter. We are making a whole new world of refreshing changes and we are very excited to have you join us in our journey to create more internationally minded children.
We believe that children are our future and we want to build the peace that our world desperately needs. I invite you to join our discussion on the Child•cor blog where you can post ideas, questions and experiences. Join us on our journey today and let’s change the world, one child at a time!