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Meet Amanda Manger of Kids By The Sea Preschool in Encinitas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amanda Manger.

Amanda, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After graduating from Dartmouth College with a BS in Psychological and Brain Sciences, I planned to take a year off before going to medical school. During my year off, I moved to NYC and did research at Columbia. To make some extra money, I worked at a preschool part-time. Well, much to my (and my parents!) shock, I loved working in the preschool and didn’t enjoy the research. The preschool felt so alive and the work we were doing felt so important.

Here I was making a real impact on children’s lives. I ended up getting my Masters of Education at Bank Street College and never looked back. For the next 10 years, I worked as a teacher, administrator, and community college instructor in many diverse setting from New York City, to Portland, OR, to Addis Ababa Ethiopia, and finally, to Encinitas.

Throughout this journey, I began to develop a vision of the type of early childhood setting I would create. I knew my main mission would be to support not only children but families as well.

Finally, two years ago, Sandy Cordato, who had owned our small neighborhood preschool for the past 25 years, approached me about selling me her school. It was the exact opportunity I had been looking for. I took over space two years ago and began creating my vision. First, I hired incredible teachers who understood this vision and were equally passionate about early childhood education as I was. Next, we revamped the space. We knocked down walls, added wood flooring, painted in calming colors, and filled the rooms with inviting, open-ended, and beautiful materials.

At KBTS, we believe the environment is a third teacher and should facilitate children’s experience within the space. We think children learn best in a space that is beautiful and where they feel comfortable. Then we were able to find families who also understood our vision- who wanted to be part of a community that supported each other and our children; who wanted their children in an environment filled with love, wonder, and exploration; and who wanted the school to serve as a jumping off point for other aspects of their lives.

Finally, we enacted a curriculum based on supporting the whole child: cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically. We created the time and space for children to play.

And, we facilitated children’s learning through projects. Projects are open-ended investigations that develop over time. They are authentic learning experiences and interweave different content areas with learning dispositions. It has been so incredible to see my vision become a reality.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I have been very fortunate to have been able to use my education to create a job about which I am passionate. And, honestly, it has been a pretty smooth path. However, I think there are many obstacles within the field of early childhood education, with which we are constantly struggling. The first is the fact that as a society, we often do not value families, children, and teachers enough. The lack of maternity and paternity leave, as well as the low wages many early childhood teachers earn, are two examples of this.

At KBTS, we are constantly working to put children and families at the forefront of everything we do. The second is the way our culture has decided to look at childhood and education. I am shocked and saddened to go into many preschool classrooms and see children on I-pads or doing worksheets. As educators and researchers, we KNOW this is not developmentally appropriate for children. Yet, I understand the pressure many schools feel to follow the disheartening steps many kindergartens have taken to be more “academic.” The crazy thing is, i-pads and worksheets are actually less cognitively rigorous than the hands-on, play-based approach that many preschools used to take. At KBTS, we are constantly striving to protect childhood.

At our school, relationships are at the center of everything we do. We value all areas of development (social-emotional, cognitive, and physical), and realize how intertwined they are. We think every child is perfect in each moment and we have great trust in each of them to do what they need to do when they need to do it. Finally, at our school, you will see children playing, exploring, developing passions, investigating the world, and making friendships and deep connections with our community.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Kids By The Sea Preschool – what should we know?
We are a small, independent preschool in Encinitas. Our mission is to support families.

We do this by providing children with an exceptional early childhood education built upon nurturing and developing the whole child: social, emotional, cognitive and physical, and by providing families with a community support system built upon an extended family model. Kids By The Sea is committed to the belief that when children are surrounded by a trusting, loving family and community they will thrive.

We believe that, in today’s world, an early learning establishment can fulfill this goal and function as a tight-knit community, putting our children at the forefront of our work, while supporting each other. We believe each child is entitled to respect, high expectations, and the time and space to be children. As teachers, we value the whole child.

We believe in allowing children to develop deep learning habits and competencies such as initiative, creativity, problem-solving, flexibility, self-regulation, and critical thinking. We believe children learn these dispositions through purposeful play and in-depth project work.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
At KBTS we truly believe it takes a village! Along the way, personally, I have been lucky to have many mentors. From my first moments, my parents have been there to guide and support me. At KBTS, we want our little community to mimic an extended family, and I simply use my family and close friends as a model for what I want to build. My brother is a visionary in his field and I draw tremendous inspiration from him. My husband is my kindred spirit in the education world and everywhere else and provides infinite levels of support.

When I moved to Encinitas I was lucky enough to find the child development world at MiraCosta College and blessed to develop amazing relationships with incredibly talented colleagues. Then there are the fabulous women who throughout my education and professional life have paved the way before me. Peggy Sradnick was the first director I worked with and she is a legend in NYC. Before her death, she influenced countless families and children. The root of everything I do comes from what I learned from her.

When she passed, the preschool she had directed for years created shirts with the worlds, “What Would Peggy Do?” printed on the front.

This is a question many of us still ask multiple times a day. Sandy Cordato created KBTS over 20 years ago. She built an incredible neighborhood play-based preschool with an amazing reputation and a loyal following. I am filled with such gratitude for what she created and that she entrusted me with her life’s work. Finally, the number one reason our school has been so successful is because of our amazing teaching team: Perla Perez, Diane Antonelli, and Jennifer Medina. I was so lucky to find a group of teachers who understood my vision and have been able to carry it out on a daily basis in the classroom.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 920 Balour Drive Encinitas, CA 92024
  • Website: www.kidsbythesea.com
  • Phone: 7603034186
  • Email: amanda@kidsbythesea.com


Image Credit:
Javier A. Rivera, Cabo Red Photography

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