If you scan the Quarks classroom too fast, you might miss Ms. Setty and her co-teacher, Ms. Johnson, because they are often on the same level as their PreK-1 3-year-old students. They understand where their students are at socially and emotionally and meet them at the level, literally. Ms. Setty is more than just a teacher, she’s a coach, supporter, and friend. She loves hands-on activities that engage her students, as well as helping them learn how to be a good friend.
She is excited to be a member of a teaching staff that not only empowers children to ask big questions, but also builds an atmosphere where teachers are encouraged and expected to ask big questions of themselves and each other. She believes that learning is a lifelong pursuit. We sat down with Ms. Setty to learn more about her passion for PreK-1, what it’s like having a co-teacher, and her own interests!
What do you love most about teaching PreK-1?
Having two daughters of my own, I remember all too well what it was like to be a parent of a 3-year-old. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, my kid would change or challenge me in a new way. I was lucky to have colleagues and friends who helped me along the way. Many of them had already made it through the "Thrilling Three's," and were able to help guide me. This is what I love about teaching PreK-1; not only do I get to spend my days with the most adventurous kids in the school, but I also get to partner with their parents. I hope I help them keep their eye on the light at the end of the tunnel, celebrating the brilliant milestones along the way, and brainstorming a path through the challenges.
All of our Early Learning and Primary Program classes have two teachers. What’s it like to co-teach and how does it benefit your students?
My first Early Learning position 15 years ago was as a co-teacher. I had taught in other classrooms as a lead teacher, but coming back to co-teacher classroom feels incredibly supportive. We are able to bounce ideas off one another and we regularly reflect on our teaching practices. If a lesson goes just as planned, you have a colleague there to say, "It really worked well when you..." And if a lesson doesn't go as planned, you have a colleague there to say, "I noticed when you… then this happened. Maybe next time try..." Having a co-teacher offers the opportunity to continue to develop my craft as a teacher.
My co-teacher Ms. Johnson and I really have fun together. We dance. We play. And we laugh. This raises the positive energy in our classroom so the students have fun. Ms. Johnson and I also model a good friendship. We use kind words when we talk to each other. The students see us help each other out. We show our students how to solve problems. Together, we help create a strong community in which our students can learn to enjoy and support each other.
Our youngest learners are learning how to be a member of a class and how to take on more self-care. Often this comes with big feelings, positive and negative. Helping children become problem solvers is one of my main goals. I believe everything is a problem which can be solved. If you want a toy, one way to solve that problem is to grab the toy, but that is not the way we want kids to solve that problem. We want to teach them to use their words to ask for a turn and use their stopping muscles to wait for a turn. If you can't open your banana, how do you solve that problem? If a friend keeps bumping into you in line, how do you solve that problem? If you miss your mom and dad, how do you solve that problem? Having two teachers allows one teacher to spend time working with an individual, while the other teacher continues leading the class. The time an additional teacher can give really allows kids to be active participants in learning how to solve the problems, and in the end sets a child up to face their next problem with a can-do attitude.
What’s your favorite topic to teach and why?
I love the seasons. When fall comes, we paint with acorns, we make leaf rubbings, we plant daffodil bulbs, and we make applesauce. When winter comes, we make hibernation stations and we go outside in the snow. When spring comes, we draw clouds, we watch our daffodils blooms, and we plant seeds. When summer comes, we play outside more, we notice the longer days, and we sing songs about swimming pools.
What’s your favorite children’s book and why?
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. These short chapter books were some of the first books I remember independently reading. As the youngest of three sisters, I felt like a "big kid" curled on the couch with my "chapter book." Frog and Toad are the best of friends. Their adventures are sweet, a little silly, just the right amount of drama, and always relatable.
What do you enjoy doing outside of school?
One of my daily routines is to take my dog Poco for a walk as soon as I get home from school. I am lucky to have this patch of woods directly behind my house. I plug in my earbuds, turn on a podcast, and escape for a bit. Being outdoors, no matter the weather, is so restorative. And because I spend my days in the magical bubble of PreK, podcasts help me reconnect to the outside world and hear about all the amazing things other people are doing or struggling with.
Thanks for speaking with us, Ms. Setty! It's always great to learn more about our teachers. Keep an eye on our blog for more staff and teacher conversations throughout the year.
About Ms. Setty
Ms. Setty’s first taste of teaching was as part of the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program, where she spent two years in rural Japan teaching English to elementary and middle school students. After returning to the U.S., Ms. Setty taught in a grades 3 and 4 classroom in a private school in Annandale, VA. After the birth of her first daughter, Ms. Setty made the switch to preschool. She taught in a private preschool in Ann Arbor, MI for four years before taking a couple years off to complete the adoption process and bring her second daughter home from India. She returned to the preschool classroom in 2013 and hasn’t stepped away from the sensory table since.
She holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of South Carolina and an M.A. in Primary Education from Christchurch College of Education (New Zealand). Ms. Setty initially attended an information session at BASIS Independent McLean as a prospective parent and left the meeting thinking, “I want to be part of that!”
Ms. Setty and her family are avid travelers and they regularly return to India, the motherland of her husband and daughters. She and her family spend most long weekends and vacations visiting family and friends and making connections all over the United States.