Earlier this year, the Zion’s Hill Preschool Program at 470 Danbury Road welcomed Ridgefield resident Kelly Debald as its new director.
“I’ve been a director in Connecticut and New York for 10 years, and this is by far the best experience I’ve ever had,” said Debald, who served as director of Bright Horizons in Armonk, N.Y., prior to Zion’s Hill.
“The staff are amazing and the parents are so welcoming and really, really care about the education of their children,” she said. “It’s just been an amazing, great experience.”
Debald’s experience in the child care field includes working in day care centers and public schools and a non-profit preschool. In addition to acting as director, she has taught infants, toddlers and kindergartners.
After responding to an online job posting for the Zion’s Hill director position, Debald underwent a two-month interview process with the school’s board of directors, staff and previous director.
She was offered the position in December and started the following month.
Although Zion’s Hill Preschool is “such a great school already,” Debald said, shehopes to bring some “fresh ideas.”
“I’ve worked in all different settings — elementary schools, preschools, for-profits, nonprofits,” said Debald.
“I hope to bring new ideas for the early childhood curriculum that I’ve gotten from being in different environments throughout my career.”
The development of in-school enrichment areas is one of Debald’s ideas that has already started coming to fruition with the renovation of Zion’s Hill’s Movement Room and creation of a new library over the summer.
“The idea of our Movement Room and library stem from my previous experiences in child care centers,” said Debald.
A climbing wall, ballet barre and additional equipment for indoor play and programming were added to the school’s existing Movement Room, and a new library — featuring a Smart Board, storybooks, child’s carpet, and teacher reading chair — was created in what was once storage space.
“It was an exhausting but very fun project, and the finished product is amazing,” said Debald.
“The parents are so appreciative and excited about them, and the kids love them.”
Play-based learning Debald said one thing that separates Zion’s Hill Preschoolfrom other child care centers is its play-based learning approach.
“It’s 50% child-driven and 50% teacher-driven that’s based on the children’s interactions and interests,” said Debald.
For example, Debald said, “if children are playing and enjoying building blocks, then the teacher might base the curriculum on a theme of construction vehicles and buildings and creating different cityscapes.”