Written by Dave Gil de Rubio Sunday, 31 March 2013 00:00
Good things come in small packages and for Kathy Richards, that would be the 2-, 3-and 4-year-old little ones or “friends” that attend Little Treasures of New Hyde Park, the preschool she co-founded with a friend eight years ago. It’s the culmination of her eternal love and desire to get in front of a classroom of children just setting out their educational journey.
“I don’t really know what it was but ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher. My grandfather lived with us in the basement and I decorated it like a classroom. His walls were bulletin boards of the seasons and holidays,” Richards recalled. “Years ago, I went to Manor Oaks here in New Hyde Park and they got rid of the wooden desks so my father went, bought a bunch and put them in the basement I was the teacher and he was every student. I would call the roll and he would change his voice like a boy or girl’s voice.”
The lifelong New Hyde Park resident went on to become a New York State-certified teacher, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in education at St. John’s University and a masters at Queens College. After graduating and putting in stints at a Long Island City preschool and Bright Horizons in Floral Park, Richards and her friend Linda Varrone decided they could run their own school.
With Varrone having left, this year was the mother of two’s first time steering the Little Treasures ship on her own. And while the number of children attending hovers around 24 to 26 split between two classes, the feeling of warmth and safety is evident in the main room where most of the teaching is done.
Two long bench tables are offset by a colorful rubber mat of interlocking pieces in the corner that’s reserved for story time and sit below portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Elsewhere, vibrant-looking posters containing the words to the Pledge of Allegiance, calendars with days of the week and letters in the alphabet ensure the children are ingesting knowledge wherever they turn without ever really realizing it. It’s all part and parcel of Richards’ teaching philosophy.
“I love providing a warm and comfortable atmosphere for the children. I want them to feel happy and safe. That’s why we’re structured. I do teach academics. I call it an academic play base because they can learn so much. They’re like little sponges. I introduce them to so many different things. We do poetry, graphing and all sorts of singing, rhyming and dancing as well as play, which is so important at this age. That, along with, learning how to share and care,” she explained. “I try to expose them to so many different things—we do math and a lot of science projects. We shoot off rockets, make volcanoes and we just made a tornado in a bottle. We made snow. We mix colors, hatch butterflies and lightning bugs. I just love exposing them to different things. But the main thing is I want them to love learning.”