Happy 10th Birthday Stepping Stones!

DSC_0139There are only a handful of companies which became an essential part of the expat community in Zug; Stepping Stones, School for Early Childhood Education is one of them. Regardless the age of your children, you can’t live in Zug without regularly hearing about it in different context, and most interestingly, every opinion I heard was always very good. The 10th anniversary is an important landmark in the life of every company, and it is the perfect excuse for me to look around the premises and to have a nice conversation with Linda van Veelen, one of the three founders.

SwissLinked: Why did you decide to become a Kindergarten teacher?

 Linda van Veelen: I planned to become a teacher as far back as I can remember. I struggled as a child with learning disabilities and I received a lot of good and kind help. Once, I overcame my difficulties, I decided to help other children the way I had been helped.  For me, this decision to devote my life to teaching was straight forward .

SL: How did the idea of Stepping Stones come?

LvV: It developed slowly and also fast. The three of us worked together at different times in the past. I worked together with Liz Christensten at another school and when she left I took over the management. Liz then worked with Annamarie Schellinger  at a Spielgruppe in Walchwil. They were over there, I was over here and at a certain point we thought, why shouldn’t we create a school for early childhood education which would follow our own curriculum and our philosophy.   We got together and decided to give it a try, at least to see if there was an interest, a calling for such a school.   We have now reached our 10th successful year.

SL: This is an only English language Kindergarten, but I just saw a German lesson in one of the classrooms.DSC_0375

LvV: We offer German for  2  groups; the Preschool and Kindergarten/ PreKindergarten  groups in the afternoons after the normal school day is completed. The children at Stepping Stones live in Switzerland and if these children want to play with the children in their neighborhood,  having a start in German is useful.  Also, when the children complete their time at Stepping Stones they sometimes move to the Swiss school system, this way they have a good start in German.

2012-2013SL: In your opinion what makes a good teacher?

Annamarie Schellinger: This is a good one, how long do you have? Actually it is pretty simple; they have to love what they do. When they love it, you can see it and most importantly children can feel it.

LvV: I agree. A teacher has to enjoy what the children bring with them, the desire to learn. They bring a lot and they give themselves to you. It is a teacher’s job to help them build the educational  blocks of support, the stepping stones if you like. This is what makes a good teacher.

SL: What sets Stepping Stones apart from the other Kindergartens?

LvV: The main point is the caring environment; we try to provide an extended family. Every child knows every teacher of the school.  The children don’t only have one class teacher, but they have a family of caring staff.  We have small classes and this enables us to know the children very well. Other than this, I believe the philosophy of the school and that we have a set curriculum in  in six different areas of development , for each age group, sets us apart. We are not simply a Spielgruppe.

SL: What does a typical day look like?

LvV: The day starts with children arriving in the morning to open play. They have some time to socialize and play together. Then, at 9:15 they go to their age appropriate groups for different activities. They start with circle time, which is a good time for social interaction. This is then followed by activities such as art, maths, sorting or reading ( depending on the age of the children). This is followed by  snack time , singing time and playtime  we mix the age groups during these activities. We find the children learn so much from each other.  This also gives the siblings and other friends a chance to see each other even though they might be  in the other age classes in the school. Afterwards, they go back to the age appropriate classes for a lesson, e.g. art, math, music, science etc. If a child attends half day, after this lesson they are picked up by their parents. The children that attend for full days then go to have lunch.

Lunch is a lovely time with the children, we sit with them like a family and are able to discuss many different subjects of their choosing.

In the afternoon, the children have another age appropriate lesson, another playtime and that’s it…days go very quickly.

 SL: What do you prepare for the Spring Fair?   SS

 LvV: We have a spring fair every year, only this year it is a bigger one to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. We invite small companies, like a cosmetic, jewelry company and children books to share their products (many of these companies are owned by the parents from the school).  It has grown during the past years and now we have companies knocking on the door in hopes to participate. There are many activities for the children such as; fishing for a prize, face painting and spring activities. It is a great time for the whole family to come to Stepping Stones.  It is just a lovely family day out.

Time flew during this interview, I had many more questions to ask, and I’m sure our readers have a few others. If you’d like to find out more about Stepping Stones  , feel free to contact them, and to share what you learn commenting this blog post!

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