Written by Emily Cappiello Wednesday, 18 September 2013 00:00
Allison Ulin always knew that she wanted to be a teacher, but she didn’t always know that she would be starting her own school one day. “Being a teacher has really been a long-time, childhood dream, but after awhile, I realized that I wanted to teach kids the way I wanted to,” she explained. “I wanted to do something that had my own spin.”
Ulin has been teaching for years and in a variety of spaces – private school, public school, in the city and on Long Island. Everywhere she went, she said there were aspects of the curriculum that she didn’t always love. Now, at the urging of her friends and family, she has opened Harmony Early Learning, a day care/pre-school/pre-kindergarten center located at 148 Center Lane.
While she had the dream of owning her own school and being able to put her own stamp on the learning process, she never acted it until she spotted the vacant property while visiting her in-laws. “My husband and I were just driving one day and there it was. It just caught my eye,” she said. After scoping out the location and realizing that it was a prime spot, she called and got the information. “It was owned by the bank and had been vacant for five years,” Ulin said. When she mentioned the property to her friends, they immediately urged her to go for it. “They were like ‘You have been talking about this for years, just do it!’ and my family was so supportive. I definitely could not have done this without family support,” she explained.
She went for it and bought the property in 2012, right before Hurricane Sandy. “There were so many things that needed to be done on it anyway and getting the property in a good condition was the first one. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy hit and the Town got so backed up with taking care of claims, that we got a bit delayed,” said Ulin. However, not even a hurricane could have stopped Ulin from making her dream a reality and soon enough she was able to make all of the major improvements that she planned. “We had to make sure that the space was new and up to codes. We added bathrooms in all of the classrooms so that we don’t have to take a child out to use them. It will be much more convenient,” she said. Add to those improvements new walls, flooring, and a half-circle driveway.
Opening this September, Harmony, she said, will be a place that focuses on the creative curriculum and a more student-based learning process. “I want to focus on using what they love to teach [the kids]. They will learn what they need to learn, but I want it to be more student-based and driven by what they really like,” explained Ulin.
In addition, she has decided that the school will serve healthy and organic snacks. “I want kids to know that fruits and veggies can be fun to eat too and I want the parents to know that when they aren’t with their child, they are still getting what is healthy and good for them.” Snacks are included in the tuition price, parents that send their child to a full-day program will need to pack a healthy lunch.
Programs are offered for children as young as 18 months and as old as five years. Harmony also offers extended hours for early-morning and evening pick-up; Mommy & Me classes for children 18 to 36 months; and a vacation program that is offered when schools are out but parents still have to work.
“I wanted to give this community what it needed,” Ulin said. “I want to have a good presence in this community. I want to get involved and let people know that we are here to help.” Her hope is that eventually Harmony will become a community center where she can host parenting workshops and have guest speakers come and discuss important topics in child education and development.
“I love changing lives and I love knowing that I helped to mold a person,” said Ulin.
For information, visit HarmonyEarlyLearning.com or call 516-308-2460.