Barb Reese and Anna Brannen faced each other while sitting in a classroom at the Jessamine Early Learning Village, trading explanations for the success of their school.
“We are intentional about inclusion. Not many kindergartens do inclusion like we do,” said Brannen, a kindergarten teacher with 10 years experience pictured on the right above.
Reese nodded in agreement. “Administrators use their resources wisely to ensure that all of our kids’ needs are met, and inclusion and collaboration are successful at our school,” she said.
Reese is a 30-year veteran who joined the JELV staff when the school started 23 years ago as a place for at-risk preschoolers and those with special needs.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, JELV serves nearly 1,000 students a year – including every kindergartner in the county – all under one roof.
That format allows the school to focus on early childhood education with a developmentally appropriate curriculum. It even has one half-day kindergarten program – one of the few left in the area.
The staff of 150 includes teachers, assistants, special education teachers and assistants, a school nurse and occupational speech and physical therapists.
The school also benefits from skilled, passionate teachers like Brannen and Reese.
Brannen, the county elementary teacher of the year in 2013, is an animated educator who targets all learning styles. She’s also not afraid to get silly.
“We use a ton of humor and do a lot of role playing,” she said. “I act out the wrong way to do things and the kids love that.”
Said Principal Gina Bernard: “She is a visionary. She is going to do remarkable things.”
She already has. With two friends, she started the All Abilities Drama Camp, a summer camp for kids with special needs, now in its sixth year in Lexington. “It’s an outgrowth of what we do here,” she said.
Reese is every student’s favorite grandmother who dispenses hugs all day long.
“I’m their first teacher and I want them to love school. So I lay the groundwork for that,” she said.
Bernard calls her an artisan educator who has reached the expert level. “Barb knows what to do, how to do it and when to do it,” she said.
The two teachers agree on one other thing about JELV – it’s a team effort. Completing each other’s sentence, they say virtually in unison, “It’s not me, it’s we.”