She wants her preschool students to "love the process of learning, not just the end result."

by Charity Shumway

This fall, the large, bright classrooms of Brooklyn Treehouse Preschool will be bustling with 62 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds, and at the helm will be owner and director, Lisa Armentano, M.S. ’06, a graduate of the early childhood special education program.

For Armentano’s school, those large bright classrooms are neither incidental nor accidental. They are fundamental to the Brooklyn Treehouse Preschool learning experience, and Armentano spent the last two years designing and overseeing the buildout of the space so they would be just right.

“I wanted something that gave the children lots of room in the classrooms,” she said. “I want them to be up, up, active learners and to love the process of learning, not just the end result.”

Pink and green, orange and blue, the vivid rooms are full of learning centers—sand and water, art, dramatic play, writing and blocks, just to name a few. What’s more, they share windows and glass walls, spreading natural light and letting children and teachers alike feel a greater sense of community.

A multimedia room, an indoor playground “movement room” and a private outdoor space complete the space. “I want to see organized chaos,” Armentano explained. “I want to see ten different activities going on. The children are constantly designing and the classrooms are constantly transforming. We’re set up for the children to succeed.”

Armentano’s approach stems in part from her Adelphi experience. “Adelphi’s program was so fantastic,” she said. “It helped me to understand that children have individual needs and to value the needs of families.”

Her office is positioned smack dab in the middle, with windows on all sides. “I want the teachers to know we’re a team. And I want to be where the fun is!” she said.

More than just fun, Armentano has been excited to see the impact her school has had on the lives of both children and adults. All of the teachers at Brooklyn Treehouse Preschool have master’s degrees in early childhood education, but many of the school’s teacher assistants are now working toward certificates as well.

“With my teacher assistants, it’s been one amazing story after the next,” Armentano said, describing a gifted young nanny she was able to hire who is now taking college courses for the first time, and another, a recent immigrant and teacher back in her home country, who now, as a teacher assistant at Brooklyn Treehouse, has joyfully returned to a classroom.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Pre-K education push is the talk of New York these days, Armentano’s early childhood education experience stretches back to the Koch Administration, when she was one of a few teachers chosen to be part of Project Giant Step, a pilot program that then, as now, brought 4-year-olds into the public schools.

Now that New York City is returning a focus to Pre-K, Armentano has invited Mayor de Blasio, who has a home just around the corner from her school, to come for a visit.

“We hope he’ll pop in,” she said. “I want him to see what a rich environment for 4-year-olds looks like in terms of materials and space.”

New York City’s Universal Pre-K initiative presents opportunities for families, children and Pre-K teachers as well as for schools like Brooklyn Treehouse. As part of the initiative, some community organizations will be given funding to offer preschool spaces in their schools, and Brooklyn Treehouse

Preschool will be applying to be among them for 2015.

“We’d be really thrilled to be able to offer parents that option,” Armentano said.

This piece appeared in AU VU, Fall 2014 issue.

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