Community Nursery School of Wilton (CNSW)will have a new director for the 2017-2018 school year. Leigh Heffernan, currently the Lead Twos teacher, will be assuming the director position when Mary Ann Putman retires from the school at the end of June.

Heffernan has a long history with Wilton and with CNSW. A lifelong town resident, Heffernan sent her own children to the school and then went on to teach in two other local preschools before coming to Community four years ago to start the preschool’s now-thriving Twos program.

In Heffernan, CNSW will have a skilled, enthusiastic, and devoted leader at the helm.

“I’ve loved Community since my older daughter was in the Fours. I can’t believe it, but she’ll be graduating from Wilton in June, so it’s been a long time!” she says.

Community has racked up a lot of traditions in its 79-year history and that’s something that Heffernan wants to see continue, even as the curriculum and programming evolve to keep up with the needs of local families and the changing demands of kindergarten. The children still spend a lot of time exploring and learning life skills, like how to be a good friend, how to wait their turns, and cooking Friday lunches together, but by the time they get to the Fours, they’re in a print-rich environment and learning the basics of critical thinking.

Heffernan sees the director as a facilitator, a communicator.

“Teachers can learn so much from each other and knowing what your colleagues are going to expect next year, or what the teachers worked on with kids the year before fosters a fluid, smooth transition from year to year,” she explains.

“The relationships and traditions drew me in as a mom way back when, and some of those people are still my closest friends, but now I just love watching the little ones grow through our Twos, Threes and Fours programs,” Heffernan says, adding, “Our size lets our teachers and students really get to know each other and the play-based approach leaves room for the teachers to capitalize on the kids’ interests and passions. It means every day is new, and teachers meet every child where he or she is. It means kids get to be kids while they learn and grow and thrive.”

The programming too has changed over time. Next year the school will have two-day Twos, three-day Threes, and five-day Fours, and More to Explore, an extended day option for the Threes and Fours and Lunch Bunch for the Twos. If there’s an appetite, Heffernan wants to add Mommy and Me, too. Community’s small size, Heffernan says, lets the staff mold each year around the families’ needs and the children’s abilities. Heffernan goes on to point out that there the play-based philosophy opens up countless ways to guide children to their milestones, so many ways to reach the school’s goal—fostering resourceful, resilient kids who feel rooted in their community.

For Heffernan, the hardest part about the transition will be not teaching her Twos. But she feels lucky to know that they’ll be in good hands with Kristen Burke (this years Assistant Twos teacher) and Joanna Schubkegel (another former Community teaching partner) taking over the reins.

“I love being in the classroom, but I won’t be far, I share a wall with the Twos and Threes and my door opens into their room. Being a town preschool for 79-years really makes Community an institution. There haven’t been that many directors and they’ve all left their mark. Those are some big shoes to fill; I can’t wait to add even more to the school’s legacy.”