By Emily Martin and Alyson Geller
Nestled in a quaint neighborhood behind the San Anselmo Fire Department, the San Anselmo Cooperative preschool has captivated kids and adults for generations. This magical place has taught thousands of children how to navigate childhood, and guided their moms and dads through parenthood. In the process the Co-op, which turns 65 years old this year, has inspired lasting friendships for parents and children alike, and a deep commitment to the cooperative model of preschool education.
Originally called the Fairfax Community Nursery School, the Co-op first opened its doors at the Fairfax Council Chambers in June, 1947. For the next 16 years, the school bounced from place to place. In 1963, after a major fundraising and renovation effort guided by devoted Co-op parents, the school moved into its current location on Myrtle Lane. The warm and inviting space remains a fixture among the San Anselmo pre-school set.
“When choosing a little ‘home away from home’ for my first born, I noticed that I felt differently approaching the Co-op, because it was a little house,” says Suellen Lamorte, mother of two grown co-op alums, and grandmother of one. “It did not feel at all institutional and like I was sending him off to school too soon (with disinfected miles of vinyl tile), but rather, more home.”
Preschool is a delightful time when children navigate social interactions, learn the fine art of taking turns and rapidly develop new skills. As any parent knows, however, preschool can be daunting for kids and parents alike. At the Co-op, however, one is greeted by a large oak ‘Worry Tree’ instructing us to leave our worries behind.
Much of the beauty and magic of this school can be traced to its director of 18 years, Edith Fecskes. Edith uses the simple act of re-direction to keep children engaged and secure. She teaches both parents and children by example; and, along with afternoon program veteran teachers Cecilia Buckley, provides parent education throughout the year. Edith, who will retire this Spring, has ingrained in the school a gentle touch and passion for childhood, helping us to build understanding, patience and trust.
A Co-op education is unique because parents work alongside the director to guide and care for each other’s children. This is an opportunity to understand the inner workings of such an amazing school and watch our children develop and grow. It is also an opportunity to appreciate and delight in a wider circle of children and parents.
“My whole life I've felt a special closeness to people who were fellow co-op families, says Allegra Lamorte, who went to the Co-op as a child and now sends her son to the school. It is this immense sense of community that sets the Co-op apart from other preschools.