Upper Arlington News

Burbank Early Childhood School

Reception, art display to mark 30th anniversary

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Burbank Early Childhood School students Jake Ruppert, Lily Bluel, Alexandar Montero, Scotty Sullivan, Jonas Brown, Abby Davis, Evie Leader, Ethan Gray, Ari Burelson and Gunnar Burelson display the artwork they created to help the school celebrate its 30th anniversary. With them are Program Coordinator Jeri Zurharst and Principal Joe Coffey.

Upper Arlington's Burbank Early Childhood School will celebrate 30 years with a reception and exhibition of student artwork called "Building a Culture of Peace for Children of the World."

The reception is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, at the school, 4770 Burbank Drive.

School Director Joe Coffey said teachers asked students three questions: What is peace? What does being peaceful mean? Why should we solve problems with words?

"We wanted children to express themselves in whatever way they were most comfortable," he said.

Coffey said Burbank is a tuition-based part-time and full-day preschool and extended-day kindergarten program.

The school serves about 200 students per year. It is a recipient of an Irene Bandy-Hedden Award recognizing high-quality childhood programs in Ohio.

"Individual learning and discovery, rather than group instruction and activity, are emphasized for typically developing and special-needs children," he said.

Coffey said the school offers student participation in peer modeling, a global language Spanish program, a neighborhood-based gardening program and much more.

He said even though the national rate of staff turnover in the early childhood education field is 30 percent annually, Burbank has an average teacher turnover rate of 3 percent or less.

Coffey said a turnover of 30 percent would mean at Burbank that nine teachers would have to be replaced each school year.

"At Burbank, we recognize that our teachers are our greatest assets," he said.

Coffey has been director of the school since 2009, but taught there for several years before that, in both the preschool and kindergarten classrooms.

He said early childhood education has changed in dramatic ways in the past 30 years.

"The most important change has been the recognition that this is a specialized area of education rather than just a baby-sitting service," he said. "Burbank still believes that it should be our goal to focus on meeting children where they actually are developmentally, rather than only focusing on their chronological age."

He said advances have also changed early childhood education.

"Our school's PTO purchased a smartboard last year at the request of administration and staff because we recognize that this type of technology is something that the children we serve will need to be exposed to, as they will use it throughout their educational career," he said.

A family-satisfaction survey this year showed that 78 percent of families who responded gave the school a score of nine or higher on a scale of one to 10. Coffey said 94 percent of responders gave the school a score of eight or higher.

Coffey said a culture of peace is stressed in classrooms by teachers talking about nonviolence and ways to stop bullying. Teachers connect those ideas to relevant situations for the children, such as sharing and working together as a team to help solve problems.

"Most importantly, the children are taught to express themselves with words," he said. "The teachers validate the children's feelings by saying, 'It's OK to be angry -- let's talk to the other person and see how we can solve this problem'."

He said the best thing about Burbank is "the sense of family."

"We strive to create an environment where the children and parents can feel safe, nurtured and loved," he said. "I think our biggest achievement is that we are able to maintain that."