Educators with the early childhood Leet Center have entered into a collaboration with North Kansas City early childhood educators.

The Leet Center, located at Northwest Missouri State University, centers its preschool around the Reggio Emilia philosophy, which originates from Reggio Emilia, Italy.

North Kansas City early childhood educator Sandy Rasco visits with Leet Center educator Erika Yocom about how to meet fire codes regarding items from nature, while students Solan Tolina, Chloe Hargrave, Willow Carter and Julian Bade work during center time.

The approach is student-centered and focuses on self-directed play. It uses exploration, discovery and students’ natural curiosity to guide students through self-guided curriculum. It strives to connect students with nature, bringing elements of nature into the classrooms as well as creating various outdoor spaces for students to interact and learn in, among other key principles.

Each year, the Leet Center sends teachers to Italy to study the philosophy and pedagogy. After this spring, every teacher in the center will have been to Italy to learn first-hand how to incorporate the style into their classroom.

“The Reggio-inspired environment is at the forefront of education today,” Leet Center Director Cindy Rouner stated.

North Kansas City early education director Courtney Holt was formerly the director of Northwest’s Early Care and Education Laboratory Center, working with Rouner who was a classroom teacher. In 2012, the center was redesigned and renamed the Leet Center after Phyllis and Richard Leet. At that time, Holt left the facility and Rouner became the director.

Under Rouner, the center has explored its own philosophy and beliefs about education and has been incorporating the Reggio style since the Leet Center opened.

Holt had heard about the success the Leet Center was having with the Reggio approach and brought her entire team of teachers to meet with and learn from the Maryville teachers on March 2.

The teachers learned about how to incorporate a Reggio environment into their classrooms, how to stay compliant with codes and observed Leet teachers interacting with students and teaching while incorporating the Reggio philosophy. Both directors felt a collaborative experience would benefit all of the teachers.

“The director that led me to growth is seeking to come back to the school she helped start. It’s full circle. It really meant a lot to me that she wanted to bring her teachers here to learn. She inspired me and was asking her team to be inspired by us. I was really encouraged by the visit,” Rouner stated.

Holt stated she and her staff were looking forward to working with the Leet Center in the future.

In the upcoming year, the Leet Center teachers will be going to Kansas City to coach the teachers in their classrooms.

“Sharing a growth experience with a team of teachers like the North Kansas City early childhood educators helps each group of teachers to feel confident about what they are attempting,” Rouner said.

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