When you open the doors of Giant Steps Preschool in Saugerties, owned and operated by Lori Adorno, you are greeted with a colorful and cheerful display of artwork and learning centers. There is a large apple tree on the doorway bearing the names of students, which serves as a welcome. Adorno, who started Giant Steps four years ago, has a degree in early childhood education and previously taught at Cahill Elementary School and the Center for Spectrum Services.
How did you get into this line of work?
I have passion for education and I wasn’t finding a fulfilling position so I decided to branch out and start my own business.
What sort of person makes a good preschool teacher?
I think a preschool teacher needs to have lots of patience and they need to like children. Furthermore, they need to have the ability to accommodate parents’ wants, requests and needs. To be a good preschool teacher you have to strike the balance between parental expectations and how children learn. This is tricky. I was just reading an article about the need for playtime in preschool. Play is necessary for children, it’s how they learn. But sometimes parents want to see proof of learning in the form of worksheets or projects. It’s a struggle to find the balance between play and project, proof and free play. A good preschool teacher needs to work hard to find that balance.
How has your job changed?
In the past few years, the expectations for kindergarten have changed. The children are expected to come to kindergarten with a large and solid foundation and that can put stress on them. It puts some extra stress on the skills they should master in preschool. This goes back to the importance of play; we play to learn. I don’t want to be just shuffling worksheets with them.
What makes for a good day?
When things go as planned. Although spontaneity is great sometimes, kids thrive on structure. When everyone leaves happy that makes for a great day.
What are you hours like? Does the job provide a good work/life balance?
The hours are long because it’s my business. I own it, I direct it, and I am the lead teacher. I go home some nights and still have to prepare projects or activities for the next day. Sometimes my family does take a backseat. That is why summer is so important to me. I give a lot of credit to those who do this year-round. It’s definitely a challenge running this business and raising three kids.
How’s the pay?
That’s another misconception. Parents pay and it seems like a whole lot to them. But when you break it down there is rent, insurance and paying my employees. Let’s just say this is not a money-making business. This new idea about raising the minimum wage concerns me. As much as I’d love to pay my employees more, if I have to pay more than $15 an hour to keep them here, I will have to raise my rates. It could truly force me to close my doors.
What is a common misconception about your line of work?
Babysitting. People often think that preschool is merely babysitting. The skills and education required to teach at a preschool are much different than the those required to babysit.
Do you see yourself at this same job ten years from now?
What would you say to someone who was thinking about starting their own preschool?
Be prepared for struggle but know it’s a rewarding job and it’s worth it. Stay positive.
What is something you wish every parent knew about you?
That their child is being taken care of. I do my best for every child. You may not see them excel each and every day but they are learning. I love what I do. It’s not just a job to me.