Tearza Stark owns a Steiner inspired day care where children are encouraged to imagine and love the world around them. She created it after realising that many children around her simply didn’t know how to play.“I opened Once Upon a Time Steiner Children’s Centre 13 years ago after a decade of mainstream teaching during which time I noticed that many of children I cared for didn’t know how to play. If there wasn’t a variety of organised activities to choose from they’d either sit at the Lego table all morning or follow me around expecting entertainment”.
“I also saw many young children saying things like “I can’t draw…” or feeling like they weren’t achieving. And all too often there’d be children who were tired in the morning or stressed from too many activities like sport and music. These were kids who didn’t even know to climb trees or get wet on rainy days and connect with the natural world around them”.
At the same time there were increasing demands to bring results and outcomes in children’s skills; Early Childhood care was becoming a preparation for something bigger down the road. It was this combination that made Tearza realise that something had gone wrong in the way kids were being brought up.
Then she came upon a Steiner play group, and later on, a small primary school. It was the inspiration she needed to create the centre, a special place that combined Steiner educational philosophy and her own understanding of children’s development.
“I created the Once Upon a Time around children, not adults. We place great importance on free play, imagination, good nutrition, wonder, and love. And because we understand the power of imitation in young children, we take great care to be good role models – from the way we talk to the children and each other to the way we treat animals, our garden, and the toys. Even the way we clean the table is a conscious effort”.
“I love to watch the children play and interact with each other. I love the wonder in their eyes each time the teachers light the candle that we call the fire fairies, the story telling sessions, the foot wash with the lavender oil, the festivals where all families get together. I love how the teachers make space for the children individuality to shine and how we treat the children with respect, compassion and love. I also love the way our centre is designed – the toys, the colours, the food… basically everything.”
Tearza runs Once Upon a Time with her daughter, Limor – a name which means ‘my perfume’ in Hebrew. “Working with my daughter has its own challenges and rewards. My profession always been part of her life. I was in my first year of study when she was two and experimented on her what I learned.
She’s been involved in most of the stages of the centre, from it’s design and build to sanding and oiling the wooden furniture my husband made, and working in the centre after she graduated from high school. First she was our cook (she did a children nutrition certificate) and then during university she worked in the office.
She doesn’t feel her path is in teaching but enjoys the organisational side of it. I only hope that she does what she is passionate about and that it gives her a sense of fulfilment”.
What do you love about motherhood? “The opportunities it gave me to reinvent myself and develop my own beliefs after noticing that I was repeating my parent’s behaviour. It provided a constant challenge to improve my understanding about myself. It also gave me an excuse to be child again”.
Favourite Park? “Centennial Park. It’s local and has the best variety of experiences.
Anything else you’d like to share? “Being a parent requires us to parent ourselves as well. Love is the most powerful tool for change”.
Tearza is an Early Childhood Educator specialising in Kibbutz education as well as Steiner education philosophy. She also has a post graduate degree in Psychotherapy and a degree in inclusion on children with different abilities into mainstream education.
For more information on Steiner education visit: www.steiner-australia.org