Associate Preschool Director
Jessica Clayton has devoted her life to early childhood education, serving as a teacher, family childcare provider, administrator, volunteer, board member, parent, and advocate.
Jessica’s philosophy of education is rooted in the value of equitable access to play and outdoor education for all children. Her students go outside every day, regardless of the weather; they improve their focus, problem solving and social skills, decrease misbehavior, and increase their happiness. In her outdoor and indoor classrooms, Jessica nurtures and supports her students as they move from one developmental milestone to the next. As a teacher/researcher, she observes children, gathers data, and rotates materials and provocations to reflect students’ interests. Jessica creates engaging and calming environments filled with open ended toys and materials children can use for complex STEAM skill, dramatic play, and literacy development. She believes learning through play and hands-on exploration should be at the heart of all early childhood education programs.
Jessica was a founding member and serves as the board secretary for the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools. She was the first recipient of their Wonder Award that “acknowledges nature based educators who exemplify what it means to share nature’s wonder with young children.” She received this award for both her work as a nature-based family childcare provider and for starting and running the Nature Preschool Community Facebook group that has more than twenty thousand members. Jessica is also employed annually as the Nature Instigator at Green Mountain Teachers’ Camp and leads multiple professional development courses for other organizations in outdoor education.
Jessica earned her BA in English and History from Rutgers University, and completed a graduate certification program in Early Childhood Education from Montclair University in order to earn her NJ certificate to teach Preschool through 3rd grade. Later, she was awarded a certificate of excellence on her Praxis exam, attaining an additional Kindergarten through 5th grade teaching certificate. She has elementary knowledge of Spanish, having worked for 6 years in bilingual publicly funded preschool classrooms. She also has many years of experience working with children with special needs, as a teacher for students with autism, inclusion teacher, and family childcare provider working with students classified with multiple disabilities. She is an avid reader of articles and books about early childhood education, public school policy, outdoor play, social justice and equity. She served for 3 years on her local Board of Education. Jessica is also improving her skills as a ukulele player and enjoys playing & singing with her students.