Jean Gallagher-Heil
Early Childhood Education Department Chair & Faculty
Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education & Curriculum Development With Cabrillo College since 2001

When I was in Kindergarten I came home each day and taught my younger sister Lynn, everything I had learned that day at school! It seems that, as a 5-year old, I knew that my life's work was to be a teacher!

When I went to College I planned to study English and be a writer, but after taking my first Psychology class I realized that I wanted to learn everything I could about how the brain works, perception, social and emotional development, cognition, attention, motivation and more!

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
– William Butler Yeats

Then, as I prepared to graduate with my BA in Psychology, I had no idea what I was going to do next, when a friend introduced me to the van den Berg Learning Center & Lab School, located right there at SUNY New Paltz. I proceeded to apply for the teaching credential program, later completing my Pre-Student Teaching in a Montessori preschool, followed by Student Teaching in a 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade "Open Classroom" at the Lab School. These two experiences changed my life's path, as I realized my passion for teaching and for working with young children.

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey

I took a cross country trip, and landed in San Francisco which became my first home in California. In San Francisco, I began working at a Montessori school, where I taught art classes.

My next stop on my teaching journey was a small private preschool in Daly City, where I worked with some remarkable Early Childhood professionals who helped me develop a teaching philosophy based on the work of Rudolf Dreikurs, who believed children (and all of us) need to feel a sense of belonging.

A few years later, I realized it was time to return to school. Having grown up on the East Coast, Teachers College, Columbia University had always been a dream school for me. I applied and began studying at Teachers College where I earned my Master’s Degree in Child Development and Early Childhood Curriculum Development.

"I've learned that I still have a lot to learn." -Maya Angelou

I returned to California, where I had the opportunity to teach at the Stanford University, Bing Lab School. This was another powerful learning experience where I had the opportunity to work with preschool age children, and also to step into a mentoring role with student teachers (Stanford Psychology majors). I also had the opportunity to work with remarkable Early Childhood professionals at Bing, who helped me to refine my teaching philosophy, with a powerful emphasis on play as the best way to learn.

"Play is the exultation of the possible." ~Martin Buber

My next stop was to begin my own family, with my husband and life partner. I gave birth to our son and three years later, our daughter was born.

I worked as the Master Teacher in the Toddler classroom of the San Jose State University Lab School. There, I worked with 2-3 year old children and student teachers (SJSU Child & Adolescent Development majors). It was an incredible opportunity to learn more about toddlers, and I got to have my own children, as 2-year-olds, in my Toddler classroom.

San Jose State was also where I began teaching adult classes. I began teaching for both the Child & Adolescent Development and the Elementary Education Departments.

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” ~Rumi

Following a move to Santa Cruz County, I began teaching for the Early Childhood Education Department at Cabrillo College as an adjunct faculty member. Joining the Cabrillo ECE Department made me feel like I had come home! I immediately had a sense of belonging, and knew I wanted to teach here and be part of this amazing program for the foreseeable future!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

A few years later, I had the opportunity to become a full-time faculty member in the ECE Department here at Cabrillo College. It is an honor and a privilege to serve as a faculty member and as the Department Chair for the Cabrillo College Early Childhood Education Department.

"Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water. Through an active, reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen learning and how to learn." -Loris Malaguzzi