Be the Change: Jula Herzog

art-615-btc1 Jula Herzog is making a difference for children and families in a very hands-on way, as the teacher-director of Redding Cooperative Preschool, as a mentor teacher with the Shasta College Early Childhood Education Program, and as a presenter for Turtle Bay Exploration Park. She is also mom to Shanti, 17, and Lukas, 13. Jula describes the Co-op Preschool as “a community where children and parents learn together.” I spoke with Jula about her approach to early childhood and what inspires her.

Where did you grow up? How did your childhood influence your approach to children and parenting?

I grew up in Ecuador. My parents were divorced, so my siblings and I spent weekdays in the city with my mom and weekends in a small fishing town where my dad had a hotel. My siblings and I were free to wander the town. We would meet up with other kids and play with donkeys we found in the streets, and go to the beach. I never played much with toys as a kid, because the real world was my playground.

When my own kids were 8 and 12 we traveled to Ecuador and were thrilled to visit my brother in the Galapagos Islands. At one point my brother said, “We need onions,” and my 8-year-old son volunteered to get some from a shop. The kids ended up exploring the village on their own just as I had done as a child. My sister-in-law remarked that I was amazing for letting them be independent like that. I realized that I was lucky to have had that experience growing up, and have been able to give my children that same sense of independence.

Who inspires you?

art-615-btc3I am inspired by Maria Montessori. She taught that learning needs to be inviting and exciting for it to be interesting. Kids should have beautiful materials and setups so that everything is there for them to be creative. She also wrote that children need opportunities to be independent and to be trusted. We often forget that kids can do many things without our help, and it’s our role to observe and support them.

Another inspirational person is Bev Boss, who runs a private co-op preschool that takes “learning through play” to the extreme. At a workshop she asked us, “What if this is the last day that a child came to your preschool and the last thing they heard was, ‘No, you can’t play with beads today’?” That really spoke to me; it’s so important for children to feel listened to and heard. I try not to say no to the kids unless it’s a matter of safety or hurting other people’s feelings, because teaching empathy is also hugely important.

What is your current favorite quote/life philosophy? 

“Childhood is a journey, not a race.” It’s actually a bumper sticker on my car. As my teenage daughter recently expressed, once you’re an adult, that’s it, you lose your childhood forever. So why are we in such a hurry to grow up?

Parents tend to compete with each other – whose child can read first, walk first, etc. But all children are different and should be supported to reach their full potential starting from where they are. I want to help parents understand that their children are individuals who learn things at their own pace. I strongly encourage parents to advocate for their children and to demand that schools provide what each individual child deserves and needs rather than expecting children to conform to “one size fits all” standards. It’s a bit radical, but very important.

What’s one of your favorite books? 

I love the book Taking Back Childhood: A Proven Road Map for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassionate Kids by Nancy Carlsson-Paige. It says that contrary to advertising that tells parents their kids need certain toys, all they really need is sand, water, play dough, blocks, crayons and paper – their imagination and creativity will take care of the rest.

art-615-btc2

What is your favorite aspect of working with preschool-aged children?

Preschoolers are just great! These guys are really my peeps. This is the age that I want to hang out with; they are so fun and curious. Rather than the “terrible twos,” I think about the “wonderful twos.” They are explorers and scientists, often misunderstood. I love supporting children’s interests, building from there and watching them realize how smart they are.

The mission of our Be the Change column is to feature community members from the North State who are actively making a difference in community life. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to pn@northstateparent.com.

About Phoenix Lawhon Isler

Phoenix Lawhon Isler lives in Mount Shasta with her husband and daughter. She has spent much of her life as a student but decided a PhD was a good stopping point.

Comment Policy: All viewpoints are welcome, but comments should remain relevant. Personal attacks, profanity, and aggressive behavior are not allowed. No spam, advertising, or promoting of products/services. Please, only use your real name and limit the amount of links submitted in your comment.


Leave a Reply