For decades the Early Years School has facilitated transitions for others, helping children learn about the world around them and preparing them for kindergarten and beyond.
These days, the Santa Monica preschool is going through a transition of its own.
Co-founders and longtime directors Tama Taub and Joy Siegel are retiring at the end of the school year. Taub’s daughter, Lisa Taub, is currently on staff and will officially take over directorial duties next school year.
It’s the start of a new chapter for the school, which was established in 1982 and which has operated on Montana Avenue near 3rd Street for more than 30 years.
“Transitions are hard,” Tama Taub said. “It’s been our main work for so long, and it’s hard to have that come to an end. It’s a big transition. But I’m excited about it. I’m looking forward to a more leisurely pace.”
The transition also yields an opportunity that her daughter envisioned seizing one day.
“It feels like coming full-circle,” said Lisa Taub, a licensed clinical social worker who studied child development at Cal State Northridge before earning a master’s degree from Boston University. “I have always been focused on early childhood, and I’ve worked at lots of different schools and child care centers. I was in college when they first started the school. It was the beginning of my career. I’ve had my professional journey, but I always had this goal as a touch point.”
When Tama Taub met Siegel, both were working in education. They eventually decided to go back to school together, earning their master’s degrees in human development from Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena.
“We wanted to use our education and work experience, plus our time as parents and our work in our children’s schools, and put that together to run a school,” Tama Taub said.
In the fall of 1982 they established the Early Years School in Santa Monica, where Tama Taub was already living. They rented out space at a synagogue near California Avenue and 19th Street, starting with just half a dozen children. They moved to their current location on Montana Avenue, which previously housed a different preschool, a few years later.
Children from the former preschool grew up and sent their own kids to Early Years School. And former students at Taub and Siegler’s learning center have done the same thing.
The preschool has seen many changes over the years. It earned accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children in 1989. It brought on Lisa Taub as one of its first teachers. And it has since grown to serving some 50 children each year.
“There weren’t many preschools around when we started,” Tama Taub said. “We’ve learned a lot more about the brain and how it develops and that impact on our journey as human beings. The brain is at a very growing place.”
Lisa Taub said she plans to stay true to the preschool’s philosophy of offering a developmental, experiential, play-based early childhood learning program.
But there are a few changes coming down the pike. In addition to the current tuition-based preschool sessions and 10-week parent-toddler groups, which are offered to families before preschool, Early Years School will add a pre-kindergarten class in the coming fall.
“I’m not going to wander far from our roots,” Lisa Taub said. “The school’s not going anywhere.”