Built in 1997, Stix Early Childhood Center (pre-k through second grade) is a unique collaborative effort in partnership with BJC HealthCare and the Board of Education in the City of St. Louis. A land swap agreement between both parties back in 1995 allowed BJC HealthCare to take over the location of the previous Stix located at the corner of Euclid and Forest Park avenues in the Central West End in exchange for a new magnet school to be built. As part of the construction agreement, there is a set aside for families of Forest Park Southeast to have a first enrollment privileges for their children.
The principal of Stix, Diane Dymond, recently sat down with Tara Bolen from WUMCRC to chat about her role as principal of Stix, and how she contributes to the education and emotional growth of her students.
WUMCRC: What is your role at Stix Early Childhood Center?
Diane Dymond: I’m the principal of Stix Early Childhood Center and I’ve been in the educational profession for over 25 years. It’s my fourth year as principal here at Stix and fifth year as principle for St. Louis Public Schools. I was born and raised in South St. Louis. I moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for ten years then came back to St. Louis in 1997 and was hired on at St. Louis Public Schools which is where I am today.
W: As principle of Stix, what is your most important objective?
D: We strive to provide academic learning, social emotional learning, and physical learning for the children on a daily basis in a loving and caring environment. I feel, especially at an early childhood center, it’s important to reach out to the parents too. One of the best parts of the day is at the beginning and the end. At the beginning of the day, you get to see the parents, communicate with them, and at the end you can hear them have the conversations with their children like “what did you do today?” Hearing some of the expressions from the kids and parents are very rewarding.
W. What to do you bring to help contribute to a successful learning environment?
D. I hope that I’m bringing competence to my position so that parents feel confident in my overseeing what the teachers are doing as we strive for academic excellence. For me it’s a fusion of the philosophy that we use in the pedagogy is Project Construct, which is about helping children construct their knowledge. They are not buckets to fill, they are brains to develop. I think with Project Construct and Character Education, which is what I brought since we’ve been here, is a good fusion of developing the best potential citizens that we can.
W. What is unique about your school?
D. Well, one unique thing about our school is Project Construct. Wilkensen is the only other early childhood center for St. Louis Public Schools that offer Project Construct. We are the only two schools that offer pre-k through second, and then our children go on to Humboldt to third, fourth, and fifth grade. After that, they go on to any school in the magnet system of their choosing. The fact that we are an early childhood center makes us unique too because having this younger age group really has a different tone when you walk around the building. Some of our parents that have been with us from pre-k to second say it’s really like leaving family when they leave here. There’s a real nurturing environment that we provide here that helps ease them, especially if they are first time parents, it helps ease them into their child coming to the school system.
W. What are your goals for the 2011/2012 school year?
D. We are working really hard to infuse character education into our program. Some of our teachers have volunteered to be a part of our home visit program called Home Works. The teacher goes into the students home twice a year; the first semester to build a relationship with the parents, and the second semester to help give them some ideas and resources on strengthening their child’s academics. My constant goal is to strengthen our relationship with the parents of our students to have strong citizens who we are helping to develop and grow.
W. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job as principle?
D. I think being around children. When I was in Florida, I worked in the downtown offices so I wasn’t in the building on a day to day basis. When I moved back here, I wanted to be a part of the “flow and ebb”, sort of like a tide of being in a school building with the start of the school year, then you slow down, then you gear up for open house, or some other event. I just like the excitement and content aspect of it. Seeing change in a child who is having difficulties is extremely rewarding as well. Whether it’s behavioral or academics, it’s always amazing to see that light go on and make a connection academically…that is so rewarding. If we have a child who’s been to the office for bad behavior or inappropriate actions and all of a sudden he/she has a good day and we don’t see him/her in a few days at the office it’s incredibly rewarding to see that they want to do what’s right they just need more guidance and help.
W. Do you have any suggestions for parents and children entering the new school year?
D. Parents need to always communicate with the teacher If there’s something going on at home that the teacher needs to know about, please share that so we can respond appropriately to the child, Also, every parent should read to their child every night if possible. Read to your children and take them to activities like we have here in St. Louis. Even the free events you can go to with your child can spark so many things especially for young children. Be excited about learning with your child.
For more information on Project Construct please check out their website at www.projectconstruct.org.