How Valuable Are Kindergarten Teachers?


My boyhood friend, Guy Protano is so excited and full of pride for his outstanding kindergarten teacher granddaughter that he asked me to write an article about her. I will share her story later in this article. Her name is Nicole King.

My opinion on why kindergarten teachers are so valuable is based on my 34 years in the public school system. I served parents and the community as a classroom teacher, an elementary principal and an assistant superintendent of schools.

Teachers as Artists

Buttressing my opinion is the classic essay that appeared in the Kansas City Times and was made famous by the commentary of Robert Fulghum, ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN. In 1991, my three kindergarten teachers, Lisa, Lucia, and Phyllis gifted a copy to me. It’s a great gift for parents too.

Kindergarten teachers and all superior teachers are genuine artists. Lay people don’t often think of teachers as true artists but they are in every sense of the word. Outstanding teaching is an art form. Usually when someone mentions an artist, the mind wanders to names like Frank Sinatra, Leonardo DaVinci, David McCollough, Ana Pavlova, Michelangelo, Georgia O’Keeffe or Leonard Bernstein.  Do you think any of these famous artists could teach a kindergarten class? No Way!

The formal definition of “the arts” refers to the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture producing works to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power. Well, did you ever see an extraordinary kindergarten teacher or any outstanding teacher perform?

I evaluated many “teachers as artists’ ‘ I am a bonified witness to their creativity, imagination, beauty, truth and emotional power. It’s a thrilling experience.

Highly effective teachers -like artists- act instinctively. It’s part of their repertoire. And they are the whole package: researcher, writer, planner, organizer, performer, and self-assessor.

Many great artists have legacies but none so great as an inspiring teacher who can influence lives and behaviors and learning. A parent recently reminded me of remarks I made at a kindergarten graduation. Many years ago. I said kindergarten teachers should make more money than other teachers including college professors. I have to rethink that because after teaching as a college adjunct professor for six years, I realized that professors don’t make much money. Anyway, you know what I mean.

And the Research Says

The reason kindergarten teachers are so valued is because they are responsible for components of learning that provide a path to school and life success in later years; social and emotional skills.

Daniel Goleman, in his ground breaking book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, states the following:

A report from the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs makes the point that school success is not predicted by a child’s fund of facts or a precocious ability to read so much as emotional and social measures: being self- assured and interested, knowing what kind of behavior is expected and how to rein in the impulse to misbehave; being able to wait, to follow directions and to turn to teachers for help; and expressing needs while getting along with other children.

Almost all students who do poorly in school, says the report, lack one or more of these elements.


Kindergarten teachers, more so than other teachers, are charged with the social and emotional learning of their five-year old students. Parents take heed because you can learn much from the great ones. After all, parents are the first teachers, role models, and influencers.

Who is Nicole King?

And now to Nicole King. This is how my friend Guy describes his granddaughter to me.   “Nicole goes above and beyond every single year to make sure her kids have the best kindergarten experience possible. She spends countless hours at night prepping for activities, works through her whole summer break to ensure that her room is perfect and ready for the kids. This year she was selected as “The Teacher of the Year” at her school. I couldn’t be prouder of her because I watch her pour her heart and soul into it daily.”

My friend said it best and now you know why Nicole is a genuine artist who will enjoy a legacy that others only dream of. She has the dedication, perseverance, and devotion to her profession that includes never being satisfied and trying to get better all the time. Isn’t that the way it should be?



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How Can Parents Survive the Pandemic and Beyond? Routines, Routines, Routines


How Can Parents Survive the Pandemic and Beyond?

Routines, Routines, Routines


James L. Casale 


The current state of affairs has plunged ordinary households into an abyss of chaos, confusion, bewilderment, curiosity, and panic, aka “What the hell do we do now?” Parents didn’t sign up for this “school stuff.” We pay taxes, and some of us pay both taxes and tuition to have professionals teach our kids away from home. 

It’s no longer: “I’d rather be fishing.” It’s: “I’d rather be at work, mowing the lawn, or food shopping rather than staying home with these insatiable, selfish, grumpy, attention-seeking, irresponsible, and always-hungry munchkins.”


Equip parents now and forever on how to maintain some semblance of sanity and civility while avoiding the necessity of hiring a mental health professional. Provide at least one strategy that will ease the parenting journey through this pandemic, the next pandemic, and beyond if a private school in Switzerland is not an option.

Four Promises:

  • I promise not to weep when someone suggests that you must “stay positive.”
  • I promise not to wince or run away when you are told, “You are in charge.”
  • I promise not to hire a tutor or any other professional even if they dress in radioactive gear.
  • I promise not to call Dr. Fauci for advice or my parents for babysitting.

Routines, Routines, Routines

If your home is devoid of structure, expectations, and routines, expect chaos, confusion, and constipation. You are trying to row your boat without oars, to fly without wings. A sign in Mr. Dawson’s mechanical drawing class at Harrison High School in Harrison, NY read, “Plan your work; work your plan.” You are required to have a plan that all house members embrace. That plan is based on routines such as: we all routinely speak kindly and respectfully to each other. We routinely care about each other and accept our responsibilities as family members.

If the three most important words in real estate are location, location, location, then the three most important words for your family school are routines, routines, routines. Hold on to routines like a life raft. While maintaining high expectations, accept even the smallest improvement as a win.

James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits, reminds us that small improvements have meaning and “the difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding.” For example, telling a child to clean up her room has many components: make the bed, pick up your clothes from the floor and deliver them to the laundry room, vacuum the floor, dust, etc. But if a child starts with making the bed (my personal favorite) that is an improvement. By the way, that does not mean you are expected to pick up those dirty crusty clothes off the floor. Don’t do it.

Routines make sure that things get done. Thus, the home environment is more relaxed and less stressful. A sense of accomplishment ensues for both parents and kids. These accomplishments are part of the effective parenting paradigm.



Good News/Bad News

The good news-I hope- is that you already have household routines. The bad news, for some or most parents, is that your new pandemic duties -if your children are home-require you to be the Board of Education, superintendent of schools, principal, assistant principal, teacher, mentor, psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, curriculum director, nurse, aide, secretary, aka administrative assistant, bus driver, and maintenance supervisor. This may be a tad overwhelming.



Routines in Place

Routines in your household already exist. They vary based on the age of your children. Infants and toddlers require more of your time and energy. Or maybe not. If none of the following are familiar, you may have to seek counseling and pay for it. Or abandon your family completely and move to Costa Rica.

  • Going to bed/napping (not you). Be consistent here.
  • Waking up/getting out of bed. This is a requirement for all healthy parents.
  • Brushing teeth, showering, combing hair, etc. (Hair and nail salons may not be open. If they are, expect Black Friday crowds.)
  • Making beds (ha-ha). If not, teach them.
  • Tidying up their quarters and helping around the house and yard.
  • It’s an excellent academic exercise: language arts/math/science. And they can use it when they grow up.
  • All items for the washer and dryer must be brought to the laundry room by their owner.
  • Breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner (no booze until all kids are tucked away).
  • Ordering take-out. You need a break, but not every night
  • Walking the dog. Includes picking up his poop.
  • Playing outside.
  • Playing inside. No fighting or throwing things.
  • Watching TV or using entertainment electronics (but not in their rooms).
  • Not watching TV and not using any entertainment electronics.
  • Family discussions.
  • Family disagreements.
  • Homework from those online courses
  • Praying some more that your house of worship opens soon.
  • If you have any other useful/normal family routines, please send them to me at

PS: If none of these exist in your household, I suggest you move your family off the grid, seek advice from the Alaskan Bush People, and start all over by building a shelter and locating food sources. The necessary routines will easily present themselves.


New Routines

If your household boasts even a modicum of the routines, you already have a blueprint for survival. Keep the ones you have if you are satisfied with them and haven’t yet called for the men in white coats and lose the ones that are causing you angst as well as upsetting the dog.

Yes, you are the leader. Please don’t wince.  Stephen R. Covey points out in his stellar book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that the human interaction in your home can be a win/win that “seeks mutual benefit”. And that’s how routines work.

While schools remain closed and distance learning rules, the work schedules and routines dictated by the school may continue. My high school grandchildren attend to their distance learning at specific times. That’s called a routine. My college grandchildren have more freedom and choices and sometimes choose the times they will sit in front of a computer and learn stuff, unless it was a Zoom class, which has a specific time slot.

If parents build their family culture on a variety of routines and schedules and sprinkle in major doses of love, kindness, common sense, high expectations, responsibility, accurate information, modeling, leadership, and nutritional food, positive outcomes will follow. Oh, prayers help, too.

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Dr.Casale is a state and national award-winning educator. In 1974, he was selected as the Florida Teacher of the Year, the first male teacher to receive this recognition. While serving as principal of Purchase School in Harrison, New York, in 1988, his school was selected by the United States Department of Education as a National School of Excellence. He is the author of three parenting books.






Teacher Effectiveness

Why Did Bill Gates Lose Millions Investing in Teacher Effectiveness?

Bill Gates is famous for being the founder of Microsoft and an admired philanthropist for many causes around the world. He’s a smart guy but he knows little about public education and, unfortunately for him, teacher effectiveness and its impact on student achievement. In fact, he doesn’t even know who to consult with when he wants to learn about school improvement.

I read years ago that he consulted with Harvard professors about staff development, aka professional development, as the possible cure-all for public education woes. College professors are not a good starting point. While they teach, research, and advise the unknowing, they probably haven’t been in a public school classroom for decades. And if they have, I doubt they were the most effective teachers or principals or superintendents.

The Purpose of the Study

According to the Rand report on this study, the Gates Foundation invested heavily (more than 200 million dollars) along with three school districts who also contributed 300 million to this failed effort. Let’s do the math; that’s half a billion dollars. The purpose was to identify teacher effectiveness as a means to improve teacher evaluation. They seemed to rely heavily on the correlation between standardized test scores and teacher evaluation. If what these teachers did to affect the desired outcomes on high stakes testing could be measured or identified, the teacher evaluation process would be transformed and academic performance would improve. The initiative also included awarding bonuses and boosting staff development as a means of retaining the best teachers. It didn’t happen.

This is a non-starter. Even colleges and universities seem to finally understand that the work and progress of students, their community experiences and their volunteer work are more important indicators of future achievement than one or two high stakes tests. But that’s not the major flaw of this grandiose and expensive study.

The Results

The 526-page report on this waste of money concluded that the seven-year study was unsuccessful. There were no measurable improvements in student test scores. There were no measurable improvements in teaching effectiveness. There were no increases in the retention of effective teachers. After concluding that they didn’t know what went wrong, the participants offered up this little gem: “Insufficient attention to factors other than teacher quality.” No kidding.

The Fatal Flaws

They did not get advice from the people in the trenches. If they had started by talking to effective teachers, principals, and superintendents instead of college professors and Arne Duncan, a former secretary of education, they could have saved millions.
Advice from knowledgeable people who advised against this effort was reportedly ignored.
Linking teacher evaluation to standardized tests is a false premise.
There are too many variables that affect student performance. Quality teaching is only one of them.
Parent involvement was ignored.

Students are not machine parts. Each comprises a set of variables that render them unique. For starters, background knowledge, ability levels, previous school experiences, test-taking stress and anxiety, and parental involvement should all be considered. Achievement at a specific grade level must also factor in the teachers the students have had previously and the length of their enrollment in that school. At my school, when analyzing results, we considered how long the student had been enrolled.

An Anecdote

In the mid-90s, I was the principal of Samuel J. Preston Elementary School in Harrison, NY. One year the school’s third-graders outscored the other three elementary schools on the state reading exam. This had never happened before. Two of the schools were in affluent areas of town and they had always been the top performing schools. The third-grade teachers and I, the parents, and even the superintendent were ecstatic, but not for long.

The following year we were once again one of the lower scoring schools. Gee, what happened? We had the same highly effective third -grade teachers, same principal, the same welcoming school that the kids and parents adored. But the results were not the same.


As the Rand report concludes, there was “insufficient attention to factors other than teacher quality.” I opine that no attention was paid to the key contributing factors that affect student performance on high- stakes testing. (see list of fatal flaws above) As an author of parenting books, I would stress parental involvement in their children’s education as a key factor in school performance. I’m not alone.

In 1966 the Coleman Report concluded that given all the factors regarding school success, the “quality of the family” is the most important predictor. Let’s fast- forward to 2018. Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia after seeing the results of this study, also came to the same conclusion:

On nearly every single outcome that we assess, public schools have a marginal impact that is really small relative to the impact of families. The things we worry about in terms of the state of our country are more a function of the families the kids are growing up in than the school, they go to.

I maintain that school reform starts at home. If Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Lebron James and countless others who are willing to try to improve public education invested in some form of parent academies, the results would be better.