After 27 years of child’s play, Mini College duo moving on
To the dismay of many, K Ware and Byrd Harding are graduating.
After a combined 27 years with Children’s Mini College, the two early childhood education teachers are parting ways with the popular preschool at the end of the spring session.
“I’m going to play in the garden all summer,” said Harding, whose last day is May 31.
“Me, too,” echoed Ware, who will leave Mini College on June 15. Ware will also tend to one of her favorite hobbies: beekeeping.
Ware began in 1985 as a Mini College teacher and became director in 1991. Harding, the school’s lead teacher, is completing her 10th year with the program, and worked for many years before that in the child care profession.
It’s purely coincidence that they are resigning within two weeks of one another.
“I took Byrd out to lunch to tell her I was leaving and she told me she was leaving, too,” said Ware.
The Mini College is still looking for qualified replacements to fill the positions.
While neither teacher has a job waiting, both agree that they want to stay connected to children.
“I’d like to be involved with kids somehow, and I’m not sure how that will be,” said Harding.
Both would like to see more early childhood programs offered in the area and would like to be advocates for an effort to create them, they said. Being prepared for that first day of school is so very important.
“School readiness isn’t having your pencil bag and markers and a box of crayons. More people need to know that’s not what school readiness is,” said Ware.
Mini College was started in 1978 at the Glenwood Mennonite Church. In 1981, Colorado Mountain College took the program under its wing and built a space for the college at its new Glenwood Center, where it remains today. Classes are a mixture of children ages 2-1/2 to 6 .
“It’s just a fascinating time to be a part of a child’s life,” said Harding.
“Yeah, it is,” echoed Ware.
It’s a time when children’s minds are still filled with questions, when the world is still a magical place, and when far away is across town.
“They are still innocent, and they tell such funny stories. They make us laugh every day,” said Harding.
“Every day,” agreed Ware.
“We will miss that the most,” added Harding.
“Oh the things we hear, it’s pretty funny,” said Wear. “I could laugh about things that happened here 15 years ago.”
For the past two years the team has kept a journal of memorable quotes and comments that have come, usually from out of nowhere, from the mouths and minds of their students.
“I wish I’d done this for 17 years,” said Ware, thumbing through the journal.
“If a rainbow breaks open,” said Ware, quoting from the journal, “there’s diamonds inside.”
“They just keep you in the moment,” Ware said of her students. “They really let you know what’s important.”
Ware got her start in early childhood education in the 1960s while attending Colorado State University. She had a choice between taking home economics classes and wearing dresses or taking classes where she could wear jeans. She opted for the jeans and earned a degree in sociology.
“I always had a thing for kids,” said Ware, who is the second oldest of seven children. “It’s always easy for me to be around kids.”
Harding was drawn to the job when her own daughter reached preschool age. “I was intrigued by her questions and by the curiosity in her,” she said. She earned her director’s certificate, took early childhood education courses, and went to work at Glenwood Preschool. She also taught Montessori classes at Carbondale prior to coming to Mini College.
Ware and Harding both share a Mini College philosophy that children learn through play.
“And they do,” said Harding. “Everything here has to do with learning.”
All about the room there are wasp’s nests and bird’s nests, plants, a water table, a sunken table filled with dried beans, hundreds of wooden construction blocks, an area for creating art projects, a paper mache shark, fish swimming in a tank, and two zebra finches that had recently laid a jelly bean-sized egg.
Tiny chairs are stacked on tiny round tables, and the toilets in the bathroom sit way low to the ground. A mini loft filled with pillows overlooks the play area.
“It’s a great space,” said Harding. “Kids here are self-motivated because there’s everything they love to do.”
“This community needs this place,” said Ware.
One of the greatest challenges Ware and Harding face between now and their last days is fighting back the tears. As if taking one last look at a house before moving on to another, they recalled story after story of the wonderful times they have shared.
“Mini College has been like a family,” said Ware.
“The parents are great,” said Harding. “They have been very appreciative and supportive.”
The experience, both agreed, has been a positive one.
Said Ware, “I’m a better person because of this job.”
A celebration for Ware and Harding will be held from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 30, at Sayre Park. All friends, current and former students and their parents are invited.
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