Being Child-Centered at the Educational Alliance Preschool


This Site Visit Journal will help you understand one particular community's approach through the eyes of their educational leaders.

  • Educational Alliance Preschool, New York, NY
  • Reggio Inspired School Change
  • Jacqueline Marks, School Director 

    (Jacqueline was a 2012 Young Pioneers Award recipient)
  • Louis Hamlyn-Harris, Associate Director
  • Site Visit, January 2017
Jacqueline Marks

Jacqueline Marks began serving as the director of the Educational Alliance Preschool at the Manny Cantor Center 2 ½ years ago and was drawn to the community center approach at the heart of this long standing NYC establishment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Jacqueline enjoys working alongside children and teachers to co-construct curriculum and use materials in imaginative ways. She is continuously inspired by the parents, teachers, children and administrators to fill each day with the questions, joy and exuberance that best nurtures the growth of children.

Louis Hamlyn-Harris believes that children thrive in the context of rich, nurturing relationships and in environments that support children's powerful drive to make sense of the world around him. He is excited to be part of a community center with such a long and storied history on the Lower East Side.

Educational Alliance pre-schoolers painting

Description of School Change/Innovation:

The Educational Alliance Preschool is a school in the midst of an innovative trajectory. In 2012 ago the school moved towards being inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy of early childhood. Three years ago the school underwent physical renovations of the historic landmark building that would take into account enhancing the educational setting for the children, families and children. And now they are in their inaugural year implementing a new infant and toddler center. The center followed a year-long feasibility study with a consultant and meetings with parents and other stakeholders to understand the landscape of the neighborhood. The outcome of all of this intentionality was a thoughtful school process that puts children and families at the center. Our visit to the Educational Alliance Preschool January 2017 focused on hearing leadership describe their progress and process to date, as well as see first hand how the learning and care unfold on a daily basis throughout the classrooms.

Leader Quotes:

“Our center is founded on Jewish values and traditions. … Teachers’ roles are to create an environment that is challenging, interesting, and developmentally appropriate.”

- Jacqueline Marks

“Infants caregiving routines are considered special connecting moments, and language is an essential component to that process for caring for children”

- Louis Hamlyn-Harris


Educational Alliance pre-school child and mother

More about the Educational Alliance Preschool’s Innovation:

Jacqueline and Louis welcomed 10 toddlers this year between the ages of 12-24 months. Their new program is part of their vision for a new full-day Infant and Toddler Center which will begin welcoming children 3-11 months beginning September 2017. The Educational Alliance Preschool is a progressive Jewish early childhood center that welcomes families of all backgrounds. It’s been a thoughtful process along the way with leadership and teachers reflecting and imagining the best educational setting they can offer and co-construct with the children. “Families are our partners, joining together with the children and teachers to create a seamless connection between home and school. Exploration, play, open ended questions, and beautiful spaces provide an excellent framework for learning”. We got to see this first hand in every room we entered.

Forward Thinking/Guided Questions:

  1. Louis believes every experience with a young child, even what might seem to be mundane routines, is an opportunity to create close connections. How do you currently view the different routine activities in your classroom with children? Is there room to think about these routines in a new light?

  2. Jacqueline suggests the role of the educator is to create “challenging”  and “interesting” environments. In what ways are you creating an environment that is both interesting and challenging in developmentally appropriate ways?

Resources for further learning on this topic:

  • Article: Conversations with Children will help educators understand how teachers can elevate their dialogs with children so that it become “serious talk with children about their ideas about something of importance.”

  • Article: This Educaring article from 1996, Excerpts from Magda Gerba’s Keynote Speech, is still relevant for educators who are learning what it means to take a step back to “observe more, do less”.



  • Early Childhood
  • Family Engagement
  • Educator Training