Bridges to Kinder

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March 2016
Bridges to Kinder has benefited our family by providing a well organized, high quality, creative, and fun learning environment for our two girls.
We love the connection to Westlake campus where the preschoolers visit the life lab and library each week. It also makes for a smooth transition to elementary school. We have been comforted leaving our children in a place with a high adult to child ratio where each child’s needs are being met.
We enjoy the fact that parents are welcome and encouraged to drop in the classroom at any time to visit with the children and participate in activities. In addition, the Parent Education Component at Bridges to Kinder is very valuable. We have attended parenting workshops that have helped us adopt positive parenting techniques as well as prepared for our transition to Kindergarten. We have checked out books from the parent resource library that have been very helpful as well.
Bridges to Kinder has benefited our children by modeling positive discipline, and helping our children learn how to voice their needs and resolve conflicts. Bridges to Kinder provides high quality activities for the children that help them develop the skills necessary for a smooth transition to Kindergarten. The teachers at Bridges to Kinder are very loving and calm and create an enjoyable and safe place for our children to learn and grow. The teachers are highly knowledgeable in regards to parent and early education. In particular, Laura Tobias has been such a valuable resource to our family. While inside the classroom we have appreciated her amazing organization skills and love of children, she has been a valuable asset outside of the classroom as well. When we were in need of parenting advice, Laura never hesitated to meet with us outside of class. She always listened intently and provided thoughtful feedback and resources.
Finally, The Bridges to Kinder Community is such a welcoming and supportive environment. The connections we made from this community extend beyond our days at preschool into group gatherings in the summer, after school play dates, and parent nights out together. The children establish friendships that continue through elementary school, and the parents make connections that provide continual friendship and support beyond the days of preschool. I would highly recommend Bridges to Kinder to other families seeking a unique and high quality preschool experience for their children.
Jenny Angelacos, Parent


February 2016

Bridges to Kinder provides a safe learning environment for children and parents alike. All of the teachers are friendly, caring, and extremely capable enablers. Our four-year-old daughter has developed by leaps and bounds in just a few months and my wife and I have gained valuable new positive discipline skills from workshops that we have successfully used at home. I would recommend B2K to any parent who is looking for the complete package: a great school with great staff and an invaluable parent education and support network.

E.R., Parent

March 2014

Bridges to Kinder is an exemplary preschool and pre-K program.  I value so much about the program and teachers, including the magnificent art the students create and the life-lab they get to explore.  Our daughter, who is in the pre-K now, is learning immensely — improving on her letter recognition, sounding out words, singing and acting out songs, and beginning to write too.  I have no doubt that she will be prepared academically for kindergarten.

But, more than the academics, I am extraordinarily impressed with the positive discipline the teachers use to teach the students how to express their ideas and how to problem solve, thereby boosting their confidence tremendously.  Their ability to navigate the social and emotional complexities of interactions at school and at home with the teachers’ guided questions (What was your idea?  How might your friend be feeling right now?  How can we use teamwork to find a solution?) is a tool that will enable them to advocate for themselves throughout their lives.  Now that our daughter has been in the program for over a year being in the preschool last year, it’s amazing to hear her dialogue with friends and her brother.  After the teachers’ gifted modeling of how to “work things out,” the students need prompting less and less; the vernacular of positive discipline becomes their own.  And with that, a calm and a self-empowerment.  They’re no longer talking past each other or doing, “He said, she said,” but rather listening to one another, questioning how the other is feeling, and using teamwork to find an amenable solution for everyone.

The preschool also has a parent education component that requires an hour a month of volunteer time in the classroom and a few evening seminars to ensure that parents, teachers, and students are all on the same page.  This element is a huge help as well!  When all parties have a similar tool belt with which to teach and parent, I have found negotiating expectations at home to be much more successful.

Last of all, and most important, our daughter LOVES being at school.  Every morning she asks, “Is it a school day?”  The teachers love being there — they’re silly and fun and caring — and the students feel that.  So, in turn, they feel safe to be themselves, and they love their teachers and their school.

K. R.,  Parent


October 14, 2014

Dear Karyn and Laura,Thanks for a great Positive Discipline Workshop tonight!  Although I have attended 3 times already, and have had  many years of practice, I picked up some new tools and ideas.  It also helps that my kids are different ages, with different personalities, and we are always working on new teachings.I was also really moved by a parent who commented–that you both really listen to him and that he feels respected, unlike in other parts of his life.  It was just a good reminder, as you were saying, that we don’t know what others are coming to the table with.
I am always in awe at how you work with the kids and make it look so easy– I aspire to make it so natural for myself.  Thanks for the inspiration tonight and all that you do!
2013 Bridges to Kinder Parent


January 10, 2014

I am a third grade teacher at Westlake Elementary.  My third grade students and I have the honor of serving as a “ Buddy Class” to the Bridges to Kinder program.  We meet with Bridges To Kinder students on a monthly basis. I have witnessed first hand the excellent teaching, impressive support and inspiring community outreach that Bridges to Kinder provides for the pre-K students of the Westlake Community.

My class has repeatedly taken part in enriching lessons and activities planned by the Bridges to Kinder teachers.  For instance, we assisted the little buddies with creating Valentine’s Day cards, as part of their community outreach program with Meals on Wheels.  This served as an excellent lesson in compassion, empathy and giving some extra support and TLC to members of our community who may need it.  It also served as a wonderful opportunity for the students to see that taking care of our community and offering help is not just a civic duty but a rewarding experience.

Bridges to kinder is an outstanding educational program.  Beyond the curriculum and teaching, they contribute greatly to the Westlake School community.  One of the ways they contribute to our school is participating in the big/ little buddies program.  I can attest to the powerful and transformative role Bridges to Kinder has played in the lives of my third grade students.   My students often comment that one of the highlights of the entire school year is being with their little buddies. Acting as big buddy to a younger student, allows my third graders the invaluable opportunity to practice their leadership skills.  Skills such as patience, empathy, kindness and positive role modeling are required of an effective big buddy. I often see my students rise to the challenge of being a leader, as they take tender care of their little buddy. Many of my students who struggle with impulse control, and empathy have used the buddy experience as a stepping stone and opportunity for personal growth. I credit the buddy program and Bridges To Kinder with helping my students reach their full potential as leaders.

I have mentioned only two of the many things Bridges to Kinder does to contribute to our school and our larger community. They are an integral part of these communities and I am honored to not just share a campus with them but to co-teach with this fine program.

Alyson Diebert
3rd Grade Teacher
Westlake Elementary 


January, 2013

I am pleased to be able to describe the positive contribution Bridges to Kinder offers to the Westlake — and all Santa Cruz city schools — community.  My three older children are graduates of Bridges to Kinder and are now current Westlake students.  The Bridges to Kinder program was invaluable to me as a new parent by offering parent education information and seminars, as well as hands-on learning in the classroom.  My experience working in the preschool environment made me comfortable with being in the classroom, and has led me to continue working in my children’s classes throughout elementary school.  My involvement with the Bridges to Kinder school and board showed me the importance of parent participation at different levels, and has motivated me to continue to volunteer in different forms, including serving on the current Westlake PTA board.

My children graduated from Bridges to Kinder with confidence in navigating the social and academic requirements of elementary school.  Their time on an elementary school campus exposed them to the campus library, assemblies, and a world of older children around them, so that their transition to kindergarten was seamless.

The Bridges to Kinder program is a valuable asset for children, parents, and teachers alike, beginning at the preschool and pre-kindergarten level, and lasting throughout their school years.  It has been wonderful to see how much my older children loved having their younger preschool-aged siblings come to the same school campus with them.  I am thrilled by the ease at which my children transitioned to kindergarten, and I greatly value all of the skills Bridges to Kinder has given me.

The Bridges to Kinder teachers and staff have always done an incredible job of being a part of the larger community, and this program is a tremendous asset to the Westlake campus, and to the Santa Cruz City Schools as a whole.  I certainly hope it will remain an ongoing part of our community for years to come.

Thank you,
Papaya Van Dyke

January 13, 2014
I am writing this letter in support of the Bridges to Kinder Pre-K and Preschool program on the Westlake Elementary School Campus.  I have been a teacher at Westlake for the past eight years and I have always felt like this program was a great fit for our campus for a number of reasons.  Now, my daughter is three and is a student in the preschool class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I feel that not only do I have the insight of a teacher into the benefits of having this program exist on our campus, but now I also have the insight of a future Westlake parent.First of all, I have had a number of students in my classes over the years that were students in the program before starting kindergarten.  I have noticed that the parents of these students were trained well to be strong helpers in my classroom.  Now that I help in the preschool as a parent, I have first hand experience in the training and parenting education that parents receive as a part of this program.  The classroom is a bit like a lab where we get to watch the teachers put their positive discipline program into action with the students.  The teachers also provide workshops throughout the year to help reinforce the model of positive discipline.  I know that I can count on the parents of Bridges to Kinder alumni to be strong classroom volunteers in my classroom.Another outstanding quality that comes from this program that really enhances our Westlake community is the readiness for school that I see in students graduating from Bridges to Kinder and moving on to kindergarten.  The positive discipline model that is used in the classroom and the teachers’ skills in using it really prepare students socially and emotionally for the transition into elementary school.  I have noticed that students in my class that formerly participated in the program have strong confidence and communication skills.  I believe it is also very beneficial to the Westlake kindergarten team to be able to collaborate with the Bridges to Kinder teachers in terms of placement for students into kindergarten classes.Finally, Bridges to Kinder is a program that counts on its parents to be a part of a community.  That community works together to fundraise, beautify the campus, and find ways to achieve community involvement.  These are all things that the Westlake staff counts on its parents to volunteer to do as well.  Without a strong community at our school to fundraise, take care of our campus and find ways for us to be involved in the community, our school would not be the great school that it is.  Bridges to Kinder is like a jumpstart to this kind of volunteer support at our school.I believe the Bridges to Kinder program is an asset to the Westlake Elementary School community.
Eleanor Jonas