Szilvi Kovacs. Co-Founder and Montessori Directress of the Preschool
I was born and raised in Hungary. I completed my Bachelors in Liberal Arts in Budapest and earned my AMI Montessori diploma from MISD in San Diego. Very early in my life, I was introduced to the concept of a preschool family.
My mother is a preschool director of two public preschools in Hungary with a collective student body of 170 children. She is also an Educational Advisor for the European Union for preschool age children. I knew that one day I would follow in my mother’s footsteps. Growing up, I watched her come home from work with such joy, filled with wonderfully cute and funny stories about the children in her school.
These experiences instilled in me a deep love for children. I truly admire every stage of development. For several years I worked as a lead Montessori teacher in San Diego at Central Montessori School. Later, I was Assistant Director at a Montessori school in Palms. I am certified to teach yoga to children certificate and have taught yoga in my classrooms over the past several years.
When my own son turned two-and-a-half, I felt that he was ready for school and visited several Montessori and Reggio-inspired schools on the Westside. I went on lots of parent tours and saw beautiful facilities at Reggio-inspired preschools and long-established Montessori Schools.
I have always loved the Reggio method of teaching but as a Montessori teacher I knew how important it was to grasp children’s natural interest during their ‘sensitive periods’ and present them with the appropriate and carefully designed materials that Dr. Montessori developed. I understood how important it was to develop their concentration and attention span that is acquired when they are “lost in their activities”. I didn’t want my son to miss out on this fantastic method.
Visiting Montessori Schools I felt that I wanted more. I missed the creativity and the art-based approach that Reggio inspired schools offered. I missed the collaborative work, team building and the sense of community within the preschool family. I wanted my son to ‘dig in the dirt’ and have an array of organic materials where his imagination could go wild. I wanted him to be able to create and cooperate and discover in a completely different way than he would have in a Montessori Preschool. So I asked myself, “Why can’t he have both? Why can’t every child have the best of both preschool programs?”
And so the idea for Kids Collective was born. Along with my partner Albina, who was facing the same dilemma with her daughter, we created a school that we wanted our children to go to. We founded Kids Collective Preschool as a center where the highest standards of education are met.
Besides teaching I am very passionate about organic food and chemical-free living. I cook every day and use products without harmful chemicals. I can’t stress the importance of teaching children healthy eating habits, exercise and caring for the environment from a very early age. I love sports and the outdoors and the beach and have been teaching salsa dancing in Santa Monica for the past nine years.
Yi Chen Teng. Montessori Teacher
We were very lucky to have an AMI Montessorian Yi-Chen, who is originally from Taiwan. Her experience includes working at the Hess International school and the Taipei Montessori School as a lead guide. Her passion for music also led her to teach percussion at the Lien Music School in Taiwan. Previous to Kids Collective she was the lead teacher at Le Port Montessori for 4 years. She has a bachelors in Early Childhood Education as well as an AMI Montessori diploma that she completed in the London AMI Institute. She is fluent in English/ Mandarin/ Taiwanese. She has 15 years of experience working with toddlers through kindergartners and besides the Montessori Method studied RIE, traditional and progressive methods. She is an avid photographer using her vintage film camera, loves playing piano, cooking, sewing and helping homeless cats.
Jovanna Ledesma, our Reggio Inspired Teacher
Jovanna is a native to Los Angeles. She completed her BA in Early Childhood Education at the University of La Verne. She has been working in Reggio Inspired classrooms for 5 years. Her passion for working with children using the Reggio Approach has been the reason for pursuing a teaching career. She loves to develop provocations to explore, encourage critical thinking and experiment. She enjoys camping, swimming in lakes with her husband and two sons. Her hobbies are gardening, singing, and dancing.
Maria Pena, Assistant Teacher
Maria is from a small community 40 minutes outside of Chicago. She has completed her Bachelors in Education at the University of Illinois. During her student teaching practice, she had the opportunity to observe at the Reggio Inspired research shool of her campus. Maria also visited the International Loris Malaguzzi Center in Reggio Emilia while studying abroad in Italy. Her interest in multiple childhood educational methods has drawn her to Kids Collective and she is extremely excited assisting and learning from both lead teachers. She truly believes children are powerful thinkers and creators. She adores working with children because of their unique personalities, care-free, authentically kind spirit. Maria is fluent in English and Spanish.