Center Director & Lead Teacher
At Prairie Flower Children’s Center, we seek to nurture children’s innate senses of wonder, curiosity and gratitude, and to honor their vital need for an unpressured childhood where imagination, creativity and self-discovery can bloom. For more than 25 years, we have provided children in Ames, Iowa, and beyond with a nature-based, love-centered and belonging-based early childhood experience.
At a time when the mainstream educational narrative is increasingly urging parents to “ready” even their toddlers and preschoolers for future school and college careers, Prairie Flower Children’s Center is fiercely committed to protecting the simplicity and wonderment of early childhood. We believe all children have the inherent capacity and desire to learn through play, deep connection to nature and place and a curriculum that nurtures their minds, bodies and spirits.
We offer a range of early childhood programs, including a preschool and mixed-age kindergarten for children ages 3.5-6; afterschool programs for children ages 5-12; and a parent-child playgroup for children 18 months to 3 years old and their caregivers. We also hold several community festivals for families to strengthen ties and celebrate our shared connection to seasonal rhythms.
Starting in 2023, we are excited to expand our offerings to include summer camps and extracurricular programming in partnership with other Ames-based holistic education groups.
We are seeking a center director and lead teacher to help guide and grow these programs while envisioning the possibilities for our future. This person will have a unique opportunity to take the helm of a small but committed nonprofit center while building on our existing programs and offering vision and leadership to help to sculpt the future of nature-based early childhood education in the Ames area.
We are seeking a creative, adaptable, enthusiastic and inspired individual who is passionate about protecting unhurried childhood; believes deeply in fostering an inclusive, welcoming space for children of all backgrounds; and is committed to our mission of nurturing children’s innate capacities for imagination and wonder while instilling a sense of unconditional belonging through connection to the natural world.
As the center director and lead teacher, you will:
- Craft a curriculum that engages children in art, music, stories, meaningful work and play – such as shared meal preparation tasks, bread baking, lunch clean-up and other tasks – and free play and exploration in nature in all seasons and weather
- Train, supervise and work alongside other teaching staff to carry out the intent of the program
- Plan for periodic community festivals, including their rhythms and flow and how they connect with waypoints in the preschool year as it unfolds in tandem with nature’s shifting seasons
- Envision the possibilities for nature-based early childhood education in our area, communicate that vision to the public and lead efforts to sustainably grow Prairie Flower’s programs
- Handle a range of administrative tasks related to enrollment, communication with parents and to ensure Prairie Flower’s compliance with state licensing requirements and the terms of our rental contract
- Lead fundraising and grant-seeking opportunities to expand Prairie Flower’s financial portfolio
This position requires a unique blend of qualifications that include knowledge of nature-based early childhood education; skill in artistic, musical or other creative endeavors; the ability to shift between managing teaching and administrative tasks; capable communication skills; and comfort assuming a leadership role.
Because Prairie Flower is inspired by forest-school principles and aspects of Waldorf education, familiarity with these approaches – particularly aspects related to simplicity, art and music, honoring natural rhythms and creating a dreamlike atmosphere through aesthetic design choices – is also a plus.
Qualifications and Characteristics
- A degree in or professional experience with early childhood education, including with preschool- and kindergarten-aged children
- Knowledge of and commitment to the principles of nature-based education, and demonstrated ability to facilitate developmentally appropriate nature-based, child-centered early childhood programming
- A love of the outdoors, a positive attitude to weather in all its manifold seasonal expressions and experience with safely leading children in nature exploration in all types of weather (including how to safely dress in a range of weather conditions)
- Understanding of age-appropriate risk management, and familiarity with establishing classroom practices and routines that foster a safe and healthy classroom environment
- A positive, playful and patient attitude
- Respect for each child’s unique personality and temperament, and an ability to lovingly mediate classroom conflicts between children while setting appropriate boundaries
- A commitment to creating an inclusive, welcoming classroom for all children and families regardless of race, ethnicity, cultural background, gender, social or political identity, education, economic status or ability
- Reliable, self-motivated and comfortable working independently while juggling multiple tasks
- An ability to nurture the spirit and curiosity of each child while building strong relationships with families and children
- An ability to communicate courteously and clearly with other teachers, children, parents and other people connected with center affairs in person, by telephone and via email
- First aid and CPR certification, or a willingness to get certified before starting in the job
Bonus Additional Qualifications and Characteristics
- Familiarity with or credentials in one or more holistic approaches to education, such as Waldorf, Montessori, Sudbury, forest schools or Reggio Emilia
- Talent or experience in one or more creative arts or artisanal realms, such as art, music, writing, fiber arts, dance, theater, crafting, woodworking or other area
- Interest in or experience with farm-to-school, gardening with children, permaculture, regenerative agriculture or similar, and a desire to help connect children to local food and land stewardship
- Experience with fundraising, applying for and managing grants or nonprofit administration
- A belief in nature as a co-teacher and the inherent worth of all its denizens and species, and a desire to nurture a sense of wonder and gratitude for all inhabitants of this Earth
Benefits and How to Apply
This is a full-time, salaried position based in Ames, Iowa, with June 1–Aug. 15 off if desired, and a salary range of $30,000-$40,000.
We offer a health stipend, paid time off, an annual stipend for professional development, a tuition discount for children of staff, a commitment to work-life balance and small class sizes that allow for strong relationships with children and their families. The position reports to the Prairie Flower Children’s Center board of directors.
To apply, please email your resume and two professional references to Abi Gundlach-Graham, Prairie Flower board president, at email@example.com. We will review applications on a rolling basis. For priority consideration, please apply by Feb. 10, 2023.
A cover letter is optional, but you are welcome to submit one if you think it would help us get to know you, your background, interests or vision better than by reading your resume alone. (We will consider all applications equally on their merits, with or without the submission of a cover letter.)
Questions? If you have questions about any aspect of the position or application process, please contact Abi Gundlach-Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org.