Beloved Nursery School Teacher Wins Beacon Award

By Suzanne Besser

Priscilla Fales, who has touched the lives of hundreds of neighborhood children and their families during her 47 years as a Beacon Hill Nursery School teacher, was awarded the 19th annual Beacon Award at Beacon Hill Civic Association Annual Meeting.

In 1969, armed with a brand new early education degree from what was then LaSalle Junior College, Fales took her first step into the school’s Green Room, the classroom for three year olds where she has since spent her entire professional career. It is here that she has nurtured two generations of young children, giving them their earliest exposure to classroom learning and community living.

For nearly five decades happy sounds have radiated from the Green Room as children laugh, sing and dance, often to music Fales strums on her own guitar. There, she starts the little ones on their journey of learning how to be part of a group, share with others and solve problems on their own.

Parents praise her as a kind, caring, warm and supportive teacher. Her special way with children draws them back years after they have outgrown their nursery school days.

Others admire her constant striving to improve her curriculum. While various theories of early educational have come and gone over the years, Fales said the overall principal has remained the same. “You try to have the curriculum come from the children themselves rather than impose it on them,” she said. “I think that is important. You learn what it is that they want to do, and that is what you follow.”

She delights in simple ways to engage the preschoolers. Using only natural materials, she has designed whole curricula focusing on rocks and sticks. The children build with sticks, decorate them, wrap them, arrange them in vases. “We do a lot of provocations,” she said. “We talk about shadows, reflections and opposites using the rocks. It is fascinating to see that if you set out black and white rocks, most will put the black ones on white paper and the white ones on black paper.”

Most of all, she loves it when the children ask questions and she can help them figure out the answers. “My best moments are when I feel as though we have helped a kid who is struggling so that he struggles less,” she said.

Often that takes weeks of working with the child’s parents to learn what’s best for the child. This is something the community of parents on Beacon Hill value. While most work at least half time, they are committed to their kids’ education and make the time to be a part of it, she said. It’s one of the reasons the nursery school has been a special place at which to work.

The changes she has seen during her long tenure mostly relate to the school’s infrastructure. It has grown to twice its original size.  Children can enroll at a younger age and stay through kindergarten. The two playgrounds have been renovated and updated to the current thinking in outdoor play. And, not surprisingly, the young ones are a lot more technology-savvy than they use to be.

Next month, Fales will retire from the Green Room. All these years the school has been her family, said Fales, who never married. She is grateful to it and the community for all she has learned and the support she has been given during her professional life. Now she looks forward to enjoying other parts of her family, new activities and, importantly, living a life not quite so scheduled.

As one parent said, “While the thought of spending 47 years with the toddler set would make many of us shudder, Priscilla has made it her life’s work. For that, the Beacon Hill community is immeasurably thankful.”

Priscilla Fales,winner of the 19th Annual Beacon Award, entertains her class of three-year olds at the Beacon Hill Nursery School

Priscilla Fales,winner of the 19th Annual Beacon Award, entertains her class of three-year olds at the Beacon Hill Nursery School

1 comment for “Beloved Nursery School Teacher Wins Beacon Award

  1. Rose
    August 25, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    Can’t say the same about her as a former co-worker….as a 23 year old newly graduated from college she drove me to tears with her rough and gruff manner. As her assistant I was supposed to be learning from her, but she offered no insight when I came to her asking how I was doing and how I could improve. She just told me “I’m not going to tell you what you need to do to keep your job.” There is no doubt in my mind she was prejudiced towards me because we had casually discussed religion and I had mentioned I was a Catholic. The next day she told her coworker (discussing the c workers divorce) that I was “strict catholic,” and she had better “watch out.” This shocked me that she would say that, since I am in no way a strict catholic and never opposed divorce. Priscilla played at the theatre in the fall and she told us assistants that we could expect her to be impatient and grouchy from lack of sleep for the next 3 months. And that she was! Not only was she impatient with the kids but she took out most of her grumpiness on us, throughout the day. I remember thinking that if she could not handle doing being in a play without being rude at work, then she should not do it. I remember that at the end of the year during a conference, after Priscilla spoke I mentioned to the parents that their daughter had recently been talking about an imaginary friend. Afterwards, Priscilla got upset and said that it made her look bad because she hadn’t thought f it first! Finally I asked Priscilla if I could make a color copy of some memorable photos of the kids and she told me that they were “just for Lindsey (the other co teacher).” I asked her again if I could just make copies, not the actual photos, as I would like to remember the kids. After admonishing me and telling me to “let it go” she finally relented. I found this behavior to be cold and rude, but pretty common for her routine behavior with me during that year. I’ve worked in daycare and also been a a babysitting/nannying agency in Boston, but never have I come across a boss as rude as Priscilla, and I hope never will again. And since sending my daughter to the Dedham Public School preschool, seeing the wonderful, PATIENT, caring staff, far more educated than Priscilla Fales, I can honestly say that people are wasting their money sending their kids to private schools.

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