By David A. F. Sweet
Jennifer Eggert is the director at the Lake Forest Parks and Recreation’s Kinderhaven Preschool. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in Family Consumer Sciences with a focus in Human Development from Illinois State University before starting her career in education. Lake Forest Love asked Eggert what separates Kinderhaven from other preschools along with other questions before resident registration for Kinderhaven opens on Tuesday, Jan. 30.
How has your background led you to this role?
I have been working with children my entire life. As a child, I would line up my stuffed animals and play teacher. After graduating from Illinois State University, I began working as a preschool teacher and learned how much of an impact a school’s administration has on the teachers, students, and their families.
"Our focus on hands-on experiences, the arts and building partnerships between the school and community contribute to a unique approach to education," says Jennifer Eggert of Kinderhaven Preschool.
I took my first role as director of a preschool in Chicago and fell in love with being in a position where I could help build a positive and inclusive learning environment. After five years in the city, I moved to the suburbs and began researching a new school to call home. I came across Kinderhaven and immediately knew I had found somewhere special.
What separates Kinderhaven from other preschool programs?
What sets Kinderhaven apart is our Reggio-inspired approach to learning. This approach emphasizes child-centered, collaborative and project-based learning. We value the child as an active participant in their learning journey, fostering creativity, critical thinking, and social skills. Our focus on hands-on experiences, the arts and building partnerships between the school and community contribute to a unique approach to education.
The fun also extends beyond the classroom walls with our vibrant connection to the Recreation Center. Little learners not only engage in enriching preschool activities but can also spend time before or after preschool with the Lunch Bunch or groove to the rhythm in dance class. Parents can make the most of their free time by working out at the Lake Forest Fitness Center while their little ones are busy making friends and memories at Kinderhaven.
What are the key qualities you look for in teachers?
At Kinderhaven, we look for teachers who not only have a degree and experience but teachers who have the passion and love for education. They foster a child-centered approach, valuing the unique interests and perspectives of each child. Our teaching staff are some of the most incredible educators and people I have ever worked with. I am continuously amazed by them every day!
What's new at Kinderhaven in 2024?
Each year, Kinderhaven’s Parent Board hosts a variety of fundraisers to help support our school. This year, the parent board generously added additional fencing around our outdoor playground. This provided two additional outdoor learning areas for our students. We are looking forward to utilizing and exploring these areas more this spring!
This year, Kinderhaven will be hosting our first Family Fun Night on Saturday, April 13 from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. at the Lake Forest Recreation Center. It will be our biggest school fundraiser and will be open to all families in our community.
What story or stories can you share that show the impact of Kinderhaven on children?
Kinderhaven fosters compassion and kindness through intentional teaching opportunities and projects, which we like to call Compassion Projects. This year, our Red Class students held their own bake sales to raise money to help protect the rainforest and its animals. They raised nearly $500, which was donated to the World Wildlife Fund to symbolically adopt a sloth, macaw, jaguar, and capybara. The other half was donated to One Tree Planted, which planted 250 new trees in the rainforest. One of our students said, “It makes my heart feel good because I love animals so so much, especially baby jaguars.” Through this compassion project, the students are not only raising funds but also fostering a sense of community and responsibility towards our planet.
What is your favorite part of your job as director and as your job as teacher?
The best parts of my days are spending time in each one of our classes. As the director, I get to observe firsthand the curiosity, creativity, and growth of each of our students. Watching them grow from their first days in Purple Class, all the way to their graduation from Red Class is such a rewarding experience. Learn more about Kinderhaven and its philosophy at https://lfparksandrec.com/kinderhaven-preschool-academy.