Joana Lafuente has been an early learning specialist in our Orange County Region since 2017. She’ll be celebrating four years with Think Together in February 2021. As an early learning specialist, Joana plays a role ensuring that 0-5 year olds in our programming get all of the lessons and resources needed to start their educational journey. We are excited to share Joana’s story with you.
What made you decide to work for Think Together?
I had worked as a program leader in 2008 and was very happy with the organization and its mission. In 2017, I had been working in early learning as a curriculum specialist for another non-profit organization. A colleague let me know about an open early learning specialist position with Think Together. My experience with Think Together back in 2008 persuaded my decision to apply for the early learning specialist role. I have worked with preschool-age children for 15 years. My experience has ranged from working as an aide in a school district to lead teacher of a state preschool program and curriculum specialist. The mission that Think Together holds of changing the odds for kids, reflects in the quality preschool programs we run in Orange County and partner with the Buena Park School District.
To know that I am one part of making that change is worthwhile.
What has been your favorite memory so far?
Memories made here with the Orange County Think Together family are many. I am grateful for all the intentionality and investment that the organization has provided by giving us the tools and training to build relationships and professionalism within ourselves and the departments.
How do you “Be the Light” for Think Together kids?
I am honored to “Be the Light” for the children that we provide quality preschool programs for by creating a safe environment that builds socially and emotionally aware individuals. This year especially, we have helped meet the needs of our families by providing both safe in-person and engaging distance learning opportunities.
Why is early learning so important?
Early learning matters because it is the first educational impact on children ages 0 to 8 that builds that foundation and love for learning. The exploration and intentionality that goes into our developmentally appropriate activities sets the stage for these children. Early learning helps them through all domains; cognitive, social-emotional, language and literacy, physical development, and health and safety.
What achievement of you and your team are you most proud of for 2020?
Through all the uncertainties this year I am most proud of the consistent communication and engagement that the team has kept with the families that we serve. The children had a smooth transition in learning all the safety practices while in person. Amazingly, we have seen our 3 to 5 years old students understand that they must keep the mask on, wash their hands routinely, and sanitize the materials that they use.
As we are approaching 2021, what is your New Year’s Resolution?
This year has shown me how much family interaction is needed. Annually we have traveled to visit family or family have visited us. With Covid-19, we have had to isolate and find other ways to interact with families or extended families. This has brought my family so much closer and we will hope that in 2021 a bit of normality comes back, and we can travel to see our families and enjoy their presence. As well as build memories with my children of traveling to somewhere other than just home.
Joana, thank you for being the light for our earliest learners and being part of our mission to change the odds for kids.
To learn more about our early learning programs visit https://thinktogether.org/early-learning/