A challenge of owning a small business is that we are always in “work mode” and sometimes forget to reflect on special moments and memories. This past summer we realized we had completely bypassed our 20th anniversary, which took place in 2021. This is a monumental milestone, but especially for a small business founded by two women: Emma LaVecchia and Brid Martin. So although belated, we want to spend some time reflecting and celebrating how far PVP has come in the past 21 years – a no less worthy achievement!
Since Pine Village was established in 2001, the entire community has become such a special place for our staff, families and children. Before founding PVP, Emma and Brid worked together for many years as childcare providers. They were both passionate about providing an environment to celebrate individuality and unique cultures, filled with unconditional acceptance, love and laughter. That, paired with the Spanish immersion component set Pine Village apart from others, and with a lot of hard work and dedication PVP became what it is today!
The Evolution of the Spanish Immersion Concept
When we first opened, we were often asked why we wanted to incorporate Spanish. At that time there was not a lot of research on the benefits of introducing children to a second language, especially at such an early age. There were misconceptions that it would create confusion, delay English language proficiency, and fail to prepare kids for elementary school. But we knew that exposing children to different cultures and languages would help them deepen their appreciation and acceptance of each others’ likenesses and differences, and promote inclusion. We now see many studies and research around language exposure for young children; the myths that existed when we first opened PVP have been debunked over the years.
As Pine Village evolved into a full immersion school we saw the great benefits of language exposure, and ultimately others began to recognize the value and benefit as well. There are many early education programs that incorporate language into their programs, but full immersion is somewhat rare. This has increased the demand for our program, which has now grown from that one Brighton school to 10 locations across greater Boston – but we had a lot of help getting us to this point!
Support + Partnerships
We have been extremely fortunate to have so many committed people at Pine Village throughout our history. I believe our success has come because of the people in the organization who work together to serve the needs of children and families. The entire team understands that we are here to serve.
So many people have influenced us over the years, from parents to staff and agencies we have worked with. But there is one person who stands out from the rest, and that is our Community Director, Marina Ituarte. In 2009 Marina joined us with such enthusiasm, determination and love. She embodied everything we wanted to be and took our values and core beliefs and transformed them into real practice. She led the way in our Social Emotional Learning program and quite literally created her role. There is no way we would be where we are today without her dedication and selfless contributions over the past 12 years.
Early on in our career we were members of a program called Community Partnerships, which was very helpful to us. This was a program sponsored by the state, that offered support for group care providers, as well as access to funding for slots, and professional development. Two of our other treasured partnerships throughout the past 20 years are our collaborations with Research Schools International (RSI), as well as with Community Therapeutic Day Schools (CTDS).
Research Schools International (RSI) was developed by Dr.Christina Hinton (adjunct lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education), with the support of Professor Kurt Fischer (Harvard lecturer, now emeritus), and Bruno della Chiesa (a visiting lecturer at Harvard). The goal of the initiative is to link research with practice through an innovative approach that has researchers and teachers collaborate to tackle issues in education. RSI partners with schools from around the world to conduct research on an issue that is important and relevant for each school, and then disseminates the findings to the broader education community. Pine Village has collaborated with RSI since 2015 on many projects and benefited from lots of professional development for staff over the years. We are excited to announce that in January 2023 we will launch a new series of trainings and research with RSI and their amazing team.
We contracted with Community Therapeutic Day Schools (CTDS) at the beginning of the 2018/2019 school year to add a resource to identify and support children with behavioral and developmental challenges. CTDS, founded in 1974, is located in Lexington, MA and enrolls children ages 3-12 with complex emotional and neurologic difficulties that interfere with their learning and prevent them from attending regular school programs. Many children also have difficulty with developing appropriate social relationships. They work to discern if the basis of the disability is emotional, neurological, environmental, or some combination of factors. Many Pine Village children and families have received evaluations and services and our teachers have also benefited from the Professional Development offered by CTDS. We are so grateful that we can provide support from this organization to our community.
Reflections on the Past and Future
It has surprised us how quickly the past 21 years have gone by! And that there are not more Spanish or language programs in Greater Boston. We have seen some growth over the years, but it is not at a pace we would have anticipated. The preschool landscape in Boston has also shifted a bit; Covid has probably changed things more than anything else since we opened. Many children were forced to be home with parents and caregivers, mostly isolated from their community. We continue to see the residual effects of this on some of our children, but we are starting to get back to normal this year. Parents understand that high quality early childhood education prepares children for future success, and the demand is higher now than it was when we first started.
In the future, we can only hope that Pine Village is thriving even more than it is today. We want to grow not just in added locations but also in quality, and be seen as one of the leaders in language immersion preschools. We hope to continue to empower teachers and inspire children to be open, kind, compassionate, and love learning. The day we stand still is the end.
We each want to share our favorite memories and final thoughts:
Pine Village is and will always be a special community. Over the years Brid and I have kept in touch with as many families as will allow us to stay in their lives. Starting in 2001 we created events and celebrations with staff and families. Back in the early years we celebrated together in ways that we can’t anymore, simply because of our size. Many of those celebrations still happen to this day, but within the individual schools: our kick off party in September, our multicultural feast and our apple picking trips. Former PVP students have come back to “student teach” with us. We’ve asked some alumni parents to speak at our conferences, which is such a treat! We recently just learned of a former student who is expecting her first baby, and (we think) this is the first child of a PVP child. And her mom has been a teacher with us for 18 years! We see our former students graduate from college, travel and go on to do some amazing things. We could not be prouder of this community and personally I’m constantly amazed at how many lives we’ve been able to touch: children, parents and staff. I’m eternally grateful and humbled to have spent the better part of my adult life doing this work. Having the honor of running this business, meeting so many incredible people, touching the lives of children, teachers and parents, is just amazing to me. The fact that I was able to sustain my life, raise my own 3 boys and run this business with all of these gifts, is beyond. It’s really a dream come true.
I love to reminisce about the children from our early years and reflect on some of the funny moments as well as what they have done since. We have children who have gone to and graduated from many great colleges or who decided to take another path. We have kids who are working in education, law, healthcare, finance, the arts and so many other fields. I am the most impressed when I hear that a child is following their dreams and exploring the possibilities to live life with promise and passion. We have also had several alumni come back and work with us during the summer or volunteer with us as high school students. I am amazed when I see the connections that remain between some of the children who came to Pine Village. It is always very heartening to see these connections and it feels like we have an extended family near and far. I continue to hear from and stay connected with many of our alumni families.
One of my favorite funny memories is of a little girl in our first year at the Brighton school who was very upset on hearing that she was going to get on the “Tumble Bus” for the first time. This bus visited the school weekly and offered gymnastic classes to the children. She explained that she was scared to go on a bus that tumbled!!
I am so grateful to be here 21 years later and to have met and worked with so many amazing people. It is such an honor to know that I work in a place where I have an opportunity to make a difference now and in the future. I don’t think I could have ever asked for more.