From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!
Economic Development Associate Kyla Ramdat spoke with Valley Drive Cooperative Preschool Director Cindy Hodgkins and Board President Alexa Glock about Valley Drive’s unique outdoor model of childcare.
AEDP: To start off, please tell us about your business and what makes you a unique childcare option.
Cindy and Alexa: In 1958, Valley Drive Cooperative Preschool was founded by a group of parents who wanted to provide quality, non-sectarian preschool education for their children. Over 50 years later, the cooperative model still remains in practice. Parents and teachers organize, administer, and operate our program. Under teacher direction, parents work as co-teachers in the classroom. Parents get the unique opportunity to observe their child’s development and to learn ways to facilitate this process. We also feel that children benefit from parent participation in their early social and educational experiences.
AEDP: Awesome! How have you pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Cindy and Alexa: We took the pandemic as an opportunity to pivot to outdoor education. Our teachers have wanted to shift to the outdoor model for some time, and the pandemic provided the perfect opportunity to do so! We spend the vast majority of our time outside, even on rainy days. The kids love jumping in the puddles (and the worms!). We are so lucky to have our home at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, where we have a huge playground and several other outdoor areas so that we can keep all our children outside and within class pods. With the grant from the City, we were able to purchase essential items such as wagons for our teachers, large tents to provide shelter, and a shed for storing our supplies. Our children are thriving in the outdoor environment.
AEDP: Wow, that’s great to hear. Can you tell us about a challenge you have faced and overcome while in business?
Cindy and Alexa: A few years ago, we moved from our prior location. It was very difficult to shift all our operations and change the environment that our families and children were accustomed to. However, we could not have found a better home than at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill. They welcomed us with open arms and enabled us to create the amazing playground and take advantage of the other outdoor spaces, which have been so integral to our school, especially now that we have shifted to the outdoor model.
AEDP: How would you describe your school’s culture?
Cindy and Alexa: Valley Drive’s philosophy is “child-centered—play based.” Play is the primary vehicle for preschool growth. Teachers create an environment for children to learn through active exploration and interaction with adults, other children, and an array of materials. Because of our cooperative model, our parents dedicate certain mornings of the month to be in the classroom with their child. Our children directly benefit from the diversity of backgrounds and experiences that our parents bring to the classroom. In that way, we really reflect the community we serve.
AEDP: What’s your favorite thing about Alexandria?
Cindy and Alexa: Our favorite thing about being in Alexandria is the wide variety of perspectives that our families bring to the table. Because Alexandria has such a diverse and ever-changing community, our families come to us from different backgrounds, communities, and countries. Our scholarship program enables us to have families from different economic backgrounds as well. Although the pandemic has prevented us from engaging in some of the curriculum enrichment activities that we have done in the past, we also love Alexandria for the great number of resources that our classes typically take advantage of.
To learn more about Valley Drive Preschool, visit its website.