08 Jan Meet Our New Director of Education
When the board and I first crafted this job description we thought “No one has done this job before. What will we need to compromise on in order to find the best candidate?” Well, we were wrong, there is someone and her name is Erin Soper, our new Director of Education and Operations. Erin started the Chippewa Nature Preschool in Michigan in 2007. A school that to this day is the only nature preschool that I know of that has successfully met state quality and licensing standards necessary to offer subsidies (and free tuition) for low-income children. In addition to having the specific skills we need there are three things about Erin that stand out:
- Erin has been hired twice by founding, visionary directors to translate their ideas into high quality programs. Both the Chippewa Nature Preschool and the Mt. Rainier Institute exist due to her skills as a tactician and leader.
- Erin has a relentless and cheerful optimism and excels building relationships with children and families. Qualities that are essential in a small but soon to be big start up.
- Erin is fully committed to Tiny Trees and really wants to do this work. She reached out to me a year ago and since then got certified as a P-3 and K-8 teacher and took social justice and anti-bias training specifically with this position in mind (read her cover letter below).
Please join me in welcoming Erin to the Tiny Trees team.
November 18, 2015
I am writing to express my excitement at the opportunity to work for Tiny Trees Preschool. The position
of Director of Education and Operations requires a dynamic and hard working individual ready to provide
leadership and program development.
As you will see in my resume, I had the unique opportunity to start Chippewa Nature Center’s Nature
Preschool as the first Lead Teacher and Program Coordinator. With less than two months separating my
start date and the first day of class, I transformed an empty building at the end of a trail into a vibrant
classroom and outdoor exploration space. I developed curriculum that was not only developmentally
appropriate and child-centered, but tied to the seasons and our natural world. I took Nature Preschool
from vision to reality and I look forward to doing the same with Tiny Trees Preschool.
Meeting with other nature-based early childhood education programs, I did not find a single organization
that was focused on making preschool affordable and accessible to all families. From the very beginning,
I incorporated Creative Curriculum, Teaching Strategies GOLD, and High Scope’s Preschool Program
Quality Assessment and met all requirements for Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program grants
(GSRP). Throughout my four years at Nature Preschool, nearly half of the students attended for free
under the GSRP grant, a remaining third received scholarships. It is important that our classrooms reflect
the community and I have intentionally reached further and provided supports to reduce barriers.
In 2011, I returned home to the Pacific Northwest and earned a Masters of Education in Environmental
Education and a certificate of Leadership and Non-Profit Administration. After meeting with you last
Spring, I renewed my K-8 teaching certificate and added an early childhood education (P-3) endorsement.
Additionally, I have taken social justice and cultural competency trainings. The last year and a half at
Mount Rainier Institute has been a wonderful experience, but I miss working within the nature-based
early childhood education world. My strengths are in building relationships, not only with staff, but also
with students and their families. I particularly excel at presenting about and training others in how to
knock down classroom walls and take learning and exploration outside in all types of weather.
I see this position as a great fit for me in many ways. It would be my absolute pleasure to join Tiny Trees
Preschool in creating a community where all children have access to high quality and play filled
education. I comfortably meet each of the position requirements and would happily relocate to Seattle.
I look forward to speaking with you.
By Andrew A. Jay, Chief Executive Officer, Tiny Trees Preschool