Curious to know the story behind Heartfield Kindergarten? What spurred the genesis of this for preschool education?
In this article, we interview Heartfield Kindergarten’s Founder and Head Sherlyn Lee to learn what inspired her to set up a kindergarten, as well as her life experiences and beliefs which shape Heartfield’s unique values-based approach to education.
When was Heartfield Kindergarten founded?
I’ve always wanted to pursue a career as an early childhood educator. This passion stemmed from back in my school days when I was teaching in a Sunday school programme and discovered my knack for connecting with children.
After earning my bachelor’s degree in psychology, I had another teaching stint for a year at a local international school. This cemented my conviction to be an educator and prompted me to enrol in the University of London where I obtained my Post-Graduate Certificate of Education. While in the UK, I went on to practise teaching in their local context. Upon my return to Singapore, I spent a further few years teaching at a local primary school.
In 1995, I started Little Hands and with the help of a Mandarin teacher ran a preschool from my home with a class of just three children! Despite our humble beginnings, I found it incredibly fulfilling to interact with children and watch them thrive in a cosy learning environment.
Over the next 18 years, we put in the work and dedicated effort to develop a unique and authentic programme that revolved around bringing out the best in each child. As our reputation grew, so too, did our work in early childhood education which began moving in a new direction. Little Hands was thus renamed as Heartfield Kindergarten in 2013 to better reflect our position as an independent, quality school.
Why did you start a Kindergarten in Singapore?
I remembered that it wasn’t easy for me as a student. Reading and spelling were especially hard for me and learning the Chinese language was extremely challenging too. It was only later that I discovered I had dyslexia, which helped me make sense of my difficulties while in school.
Despite my rocky start, I fondly remembered the people who helped me to find my way as a learner despite my dyslexia. These big-hearted teachers and supportive parents had a big impact on me. I not only managed to overcome my learning setbacks, I grew to love learning—an experience which helped me to become an educator.
Having gone through that journey, I could empathise with children who have difficulty learning in a conventional school setting. This was reflected in how I gravitated towards engaging children who were really shy or who found it hard to adjust during my Sunday school teaching days.
Given freedom and space, children thrive when they feel heard and understood. That doesn’t change even if they hail from different cultures. I wanted to cater to these specific needs by providing a conducive environment for them to grow holistically—in this regard, starting an independent kindergarten was a natural step for me.
How Do You See Your Role as an Early Childhood Educator?
Although I serve as Heartfield’s Head, teaching still remains very close to my heart. My joy is being in the classroom with the children, being where the pulse is. My role as a leader is to show love and care for the teachers—when they feel appreciated and supported, they thrive and carry forward that passion into the classrooms.
A good gardener observes how every tree has different needs and grows differently. Likewise, a teacher’s role is to observe the children, see what helps them grow best, and then provide that
What is Heartfield Kindergarten’s philosophy to early childhood education?
Heartfield is passionate about nurturing children to grow their love for learning, their sense-of self, and their self-expression in a community who appreciates their uniqueness.
We do this by creating an authentic learning experience that engages the whole child–their senses, cognition and social-emotions. We believe the seat of learning is within the child!
Children should take the lead in their learning. Hence, our approach revolves around the concept of scaffolding. In education, the scaffold is a temporary structure that gives help and support when needed. Educators expertly ask the right questions, provide guidance so the child can eventually work independently. Gradually the scaffolding can be pulled away, to let the child just thrive on their own. The skill is knowing when and how to come in, and when to back away; allowing the children that space to work things out for themselves.
Why should parents consider Heartfield Kindergarten?
Our school is special as we offer a very open and accepting environment. The learning experience we offer is authentic, challenging and inspiring. We want to ignite their passion for learning and do so by focusing on each child’s special learning style.
We believe that when they go out into the world, they will know who they truly are, and how they can contribute to the community as compassionate, caring individuals.
We embrace every child’s individuality with their own special family. We value the close relationship we have with parents who have entrusted their children to our care. Building this relationship of trust, and providing clear and consistent communication is vital.
Our great joy and reward seeing our “graduates” (who have been with us since they were 18-month-old toddlers) grow up at Heartfield and “graduate” as poised and confident six-year-olds with a strong sense of self.
Watching these children flourish after pouring our whole hearts into nurturing them during their crucial years gives them wonderful memories to launch from, precious friendships to lean on and strong foundations to build on in their future!
Come meet Sherlyn and her team to learn more about us and our unique Heartfield. We invite you to call us to book a visit at tel: +65 6835 2354, or email: info@HeartfieldKindergarten.com. Our office is open Monday-Friday from 9am-4pm. See you soon!