The Gardner School
of Chicago- West Loop

The Gardner School's West Loop campus is a Chicago preschool that offers year-round full and part-time childcare with early childhood education programs for children six weeks old through private Pre-K. In addition, we also provide a full suite of enrichment classes and our summer camp, Camp Gardner. All of our lead teachers have four year degrees in early childhood education, elementary education or a closely related field. The stimulating, creative and educationally engineered school has been designed to meet the needs of our most important client... the children. Attention to detail both inside and outside the classroom is what makes The Gardner School a very special place for young children.

Enrichment Programs Offered

gym

Twinkle Tots

For Ages: 14 Months to 2 Years
gymnastics

Gymnastics

For Ages: 18 Months +
computer

Be Smart Computers

For Ages: 18 Months +
dance

Dance

For Ages: 2 Years +
music-drama

Music

For Ages: 2 Years +
language

Spanish

For Ages: 2 Years +
karate

Karate

For Ages: 2 Years +
runner

Sports

For Ages: 3 Years +
music-drama

Violin

For Ages: 3 Years +

Chicago- West Loop Campus Leadership

Tania Crawford
School Director

How long have you been with TGS? 
Since January 2013

Roles Served with TGS: 
I was so blessed to start as an Executive School Director with The Gardner School in January of 2013 to open the first TGS in Chicago, the West Loop campus. It’s been such an exciting journey bringing the school from bare walls to a bustling school with many classrooms full of happy children!

What is your educational background? 
I graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. I have worked with young children since 1995, with 18 of those years in managerial positions.

What made you decide to have a career in education?
Throughout my early years of schooling, I was lucky enough to have some very influential teachers. This, along with my love of being around children, influenced me to pursue the education field when I entered college. When I started working in my first preschool, I found that the combination of working with young children and being able to have a relationship with their families could not be beat! I couldn’t believe I had the best of both worlds!  Since that time, I’ve held a variety of roles within the early childhood field: assistant teacher, lead teacher, assistant director and director. I’m so glad to have found my “new home” as Executive Director of The Gardner School! 

What do you love most about working with infants through the age of 5? 
The amount of growth and development that happens between the ages of six weeks and six years is just mind boggling! It’s so rewarding to remember when this preschooler first started with us in the nursery and see how much change has happened!

What is your favorite part of the day at TGS?
I love visiting the students in the classrooms, as well as conversing with the families at the beginning and end of the day.

What do you love most about TGS?
I cherish the relationships I have with each of the students, as well as their families!

What is your fondest memory of TGS thus far? 
TGS West Loop’s first Spring Fling/Graduation ceremony is by far my fondest memory. Looking back on how much progress the students made in our first school year, and enjoying the moment with the families and friends that were there, was priceless. It brought a tear to my eyes when the Pre-K class performed “So Long, Farewell” from The Sound of Music that night.

What does the term ‘Where Learning Begins’ mean to you? 
Children are sponges from birth onward. It is imperative that they have strong early childhood programs to support their desire for knowledge and help them become excellent students!

How important is early childhood education? 
Particularly with the competitive schooling in the city of Chicago, early childhood education is a necessity! In order to “test into kindergarten”, children need to have an excellent foundation and a wide range of experiences prior to entering the elementary schools!

Do you have children who go to TGS or have gone to TGS? 
My children were already teenagers by the time TGS came to Illinois, but I wish The Gardner School would’ve been around the area when my girls were younger!

What would you tell new parents who are apprehensive about leaving their infant in the care of someone else for the first time?  
Apprehension is completely normal! Make visits to the school prior to leaving your child so that you can build a rapport with the teachers and management team. You will quickly see how caring and attentive the teachers are, and your apprehension will quickly fade. Additionally, our PreciouStatus system will allow you to receive updates and photos as they are happening to assist you through the day.

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Laura Milleville
Assistant Director

How long have you been with TGS? 
Since August 2013

Roles Served with TGS:
I have been a Pre-Kindergarten teacher, Director of Curriculum/Enrichment Coordinator, and now Assistant Director with The Gardner School.

What is your educational background?
I received my Bachelor of Elementary Education from Illinois State University and also have my Illinois State Teaching Certificate.

What made you decide to have a career in education?
I have a passion for helping others, and nothing can compare to helping children grow.  My entire life I have worked with children in different ways, and it only felt natural to go into education as a career.

What makes you laugh about kids? 
Being able to laugh with the kids at school is definitely one of the biggest perks of my job. Their honesty and innocence about life keeps things fun and interesting for sure!

What do you love most about working with infants through the age of 5?
I love being able to watch a child grow throughout their time at our school and see their personalities come out. This is the age where they are curious about everything, and watching them ask and answer their questions about life gives me joy.

What is your favorite part of the day at TGS?
Storytime is one of my favorite times of the day. I love going into the classroom, reading stories with the students, and having conversations of what they think about the story. Having a child read a story to me is even better!

What do you love most about TGS?
One of the things that I have always loved about TGS is the sense of community we have within the school. The staff truly cares about each other and our families, and works hard to make sure each student succeeds.

What is your fondest memory of TGS thus far?
During our Let's Investigate theme one week, I was a "Secret Reader" for our Prekindergarten class. During the week, the students had to decode messages I left for them as clues to figure out who the reader was. Every day I would ask them who they thought the secret reader was, or what message they figured out. Finally, on the last day, they figured out the secret reader was me! They were so proud they "cracked the code" and figured out who the secret reader was. Then, I chose two books to read to them, and got to spend time just reading and having fun. I'll never forget leaving at the end of the day and seeing them wave at me out the window saying "Goodbye, secret reader! See you later, secret reader!"

What inspires you?
I grew up with hard working, caring and fun parents, and they inspire me to do the same in my own life. I grew up having my parents teach me how to help others, work hard for what I want, but to have fun with the process. I want to be able to share that inspiration with the students I work with each day.

What is your passion or passions?
My passion is truly helping and caring for others.  I try my hardest to support others, and want to be the reason someone has a smile on their face each day!

What does the term ‘Where Learning Begins’ mean to you?
To me, TGS is the starting point for a child's education that will carry them throughout their entire lives. Our school strives to provide a positive and supportive environment to help your child reach their first milestones and make those first steps towards learning. We want to be the positive role models that help each child begin their learning career in the best way possible for them.

How important is early childhood education?
Having an early childhood education is extremely beneficial for your child for so many reasons. TGS provides a safe and positive environment for your child to start their learning career, it gives them the opportunity to socialize with other children their age, and it also gives them opportunities to explore new experiences and ideas.

What would you tell new parents who are apprehensive about leaving their infant in the care of someone else for the first time?
I always tell new parents that it is normal to feel apprehensive about leaving their child on the first day of school. But I always assure them that our teachers will provide them with the best care possible, and that our doors are always open for them to check in on their child. Once they see how exciting of a day and happy their child is after they have warmed up, that apprehension completely fades away.

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