Monday, 7 November 2016

Reggio-Inspired Spotlight: Pat Furman

We are so excited to share our third spotlight educator! It's such a treat to see into different educational spaces and learn from each other. If you are interested in being featured here, or know someone who should, please contact us at Please note, we are looking for educators at various points in their journey. We all have something to share.

My name is Pat Furman and I am the Executive Director of Robertson Early Enrichment Program since inception, September 2004. We have two childcare sites. Our original site is licensed for 78 children including 10 Kindergarten children, 8 Nursery children and 60 school age spaces. This site is located within Robertson School. Our second site opened on July 4, 2016 which is located within the SSCY centre (Specialized Services for Children and Youth). This site is licensed for 48 children including 32 preschoolers and 16 infants.

I have been an Early Childhood Educator for over 17 years. My passion has always been working with children with additional support needs. I have my Bachelor of Arts; I doubled majored in Psychology and Developmental Studies. I have four years of a Human Ecology degree in Family Studies and Special needs. I also have an Advanced Diploma in Early Childhood Management.

For five years I worked at the Rehabilitation Centre for Children in the developmental day program. For ten years I worked as a Child Development Counsellor with Children’s disAbility Services. Nine of those ten years I was also the Director of this program. I am married and the Mother of three young children who inspire me each and every day!

Instagram: patfurman              

MBRICE: How and when did you become interested in RE?
I had attended the MCCA annual conference in either 2007 or 2008 and one of the seminars was about different approaches in the child care field. This was the first time I remember hearing about Reggio Emilia Approach. The following year MB RICE and Seven Oaks School Division hosted the 2009 conference in May. I was very inspired and eager to hear and learn more. A few years ago I joined the Executive MB Rice committee.

MB RICE: What are your favourite aspects of the philosophy? 
All aspects of the philosophy resonate with me in some capacity. I connect mostly with the image of the child, role of the teacher, environment as a third teacher and building a culture of community.
I recently heard that in Reggio Emilia the terminology they use to describe children with additional support needs is Children with special rights! I love that! Again that terminology embodies seeing children as capable, confident and curious citizens.

Recently, I hired 27 Educators for both my new SSCY site and for my existing school location. I spent many hours reviewing my human resource approach to hiring so that I would have greater success finding educators who held a strong image of a child and were reflective in their practices and believed in documenting children’s work. I kept in mind the role of the teacher while devising my interview questions.

At my new site which is located within the SSCY centre, we co-locate with 14 other agencies. Over the last four years we met regularly to discuss and develop several policies regarding how we were all going to co-locate with one another. Building a culture of community was and continues to be important for all of the SSCY partners. We have formed many wonderful new partnerships with many of the agencies including Child development clinic. Strengthening community relations benefits all of our educators, families and children at the centre.

MBRICE: What books/resources would you recommend?
The Hundred languages of children - experiences in transformation is a book I continue to use as a guide. It allows me to think deeply about my own practice with children.
We have a subscription to Childcare Exchange magazine. This magazine has fabulous and relevant articles relating to our childcare field. Many of them refer to the Reggio Emilia approach philosophy. I will often use these articles at our monthly Educators meetings.

MBRICE: What do you find challenging?
What can be challenging at times is getting everyone on board! Part of my job is to educate our parents, families and my educators about aspects in the philosophy. For example, sometimes it takes time to discuss and show the importance and benefits to using more open ended materials. We do this by documenting the children’s intentions, ideas and experiences using these materials. On occasion we will receive some resistance from parents and even educators who want to bring more traditional toys out to play, particularly in our infant room. We have tremendous joy watching them and how they use and create with loose parts.

MBRICE: How has your teaching changed since you began learning about RE?
I have more purpose in what I am doing each and every day. I have restructured my own job description to allow myself more time on the floor to be with the children, and to connect with the educators. I spent ten years watching and making observations about children and how they learn in my role as a child development counselor. I think one of my strengths is seeing what children are doing, and how purposeful they are as they interact with the materials. I want to collaborate with my educators, and support their ideas they have about their space and help them build a curriculum based on the children’s interest.

Thank you for allowing me to share about my journey. If you have any questions or comments please contact me at

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