Every child has the right to play.
But not every child can afford to go to preschool. That's where Leora Lazarus comes in.
Leora, or Teacher Lee, as the kids know her, runs a traveling preschool that makes it possible for any child, no matter their income, to experience the benefits of early childhood education.
Leora has been a teacher for her entire life, but it wasn't until she first moved to San Diego three years ago that she began her portable preschool.
"I believe children learn through play," she said. "My program is set up in such a way that children learn in a developmental way through their environment.
Leora, who doesn't charge any fee for her school, runs the program out of her car. "I take all my equipment, load it up in my car so that all children, whether or not they can afford it, can get schooling," she said.
She remembers when the idea first came to her. As a teacher, she had accumulated boxes and boxes of schoolroom materials over the years. "The economy was starting to turn and everyone was out of a job and people were saying 'what should we do?,' " she said. "I had all my resources built up over the years and it was sitting in the garage. I said, let's use them and that's how the program started."
Things started small. "I started by word of mouth," she said. "I went around my neighborhood and said 'does anyone want to come to the community room?' The first time, 14 people arrived. I realized there was a need for it."
Now, she can get anywhere from six to 70 kids in her classroom. She holds regular classes three days a week and encourages parents to stay on as well. Her program is a boon to all the parents who cannot afford to pay for pre-kindergarten schooling.
"I found that a lot of people would stay home and not share that they can't afford preschool instead of seeking help for that," she said. "I realized that there are so many children who are sitting at home who could benefit from preschool. Because it wasn't a public option for these people, they weren't getting an equal footing."
But Leora's doing her best to change that. "I'm trying to reach as many people as I can," she said. "We don't want 3-, 4-year-olds to start kindergarten with a disadvantage. We are growing every day. It's a blessing to see these children."
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