An Interview with the New Director

In July 2009, after a national search, Jennifer Winters was named the new director of Bing Nursery School. She has nearly 25 years of experience in the field of early childhood education. She earned a bachelor of science in special education and elementary education from the University of Maryland and a master’s in child development from San Jose State University. This is Winters’ 15th year at Bing. She has been a teacher and head teacher, and for the past eight years has served as assistant director and acting director, and as a lecturer in Stanford’s department of psychology. Prior to Bing, Winters served as a special education teacher in Maryland and Texas public schools, the director of a nursery school and kindergarten in Bowie, Md., and the curriculum director for a Jacksonville, Fla., non-profit with over 20 early childhood programs for at-risk children and families.

On a personal note, she describes herself as an avowed “foodie” and an avid cook, and a frustrated vocalist. She and her husband Phil Winters, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. They have one son, Christopher. Winters grew up in Maryland and has also lived in Texas, Hawaii, and Florida. She now calls the Bay Area home, having lived here for nearly 20 years. She comes from a family committed to both early childhood education and to higher education. Her mother was the longtime director of a pre-school and kindergarten and was later instrumental in implementing the initial accreditation system at the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Her father was a professor of physics at Catholic University. Both of her sisters are professors of fine art and are accomplished artists. Her older brother is an economics professor and her younger brother has a career in business. The Bing Times editor, Chia-wa Yeh, spoke with Winters about her thoughts on Bing and her vision for the future.

You’ve been involved in early childhood education for over two decades and have seen a great number of different programs in that time. What do you believe makes Bing so special?

First of all, I’d like to say that it’s an honor and privilege to be serving as the director of Bing Nursery School. The teachers and staff, the university and the psychology department, and the entire Bing community of children, families, alumni, donors and supporters are all second to none!

There really is no place quite like Bing. What makes it so special is the profound positive impact made on so many lives through the different things we do here. Most visibly, our play-based, child-centered programs provide a wonderful initial educational experience for young children and their families. Bing is also a renowned laboratory school for research studies, which are often cited in the textbooks of psychology, linguistics and education curricula. And we provide the ideal setting for undergraduate courses in child development, with students observing children first hand.

It is incredibly rewarding to know all the positive and far-reaching ways in which Bing touches so many lives. For example, seeing Dawn Maxey, now a first year medical student at Johns Hopkins University, addressing last year’s Stanford’s Phi Beta Kappa graduating class with a speech describing her educational journey at Stanford, beginning and ending at Bing. She started as a three-year-old at the nursery school and went on to become a Stanford undergraduate who took classes at Bing, conducted a study at Bing for her honor’s thesis and also worked at Bing as a student teacher. And hearing from University of Virginia professor Vikram Jaswal, a former psychology doctoral candidate and researcher who spent countless hours at Bing telling of the joys of being a new parent. And seeing Bing alumni parents and their children—very often at the farmer’s market—now in elementary, middle or high school so fondly recall their experience at Bing. That is what makes Bing so special.

What do you enjoy most about coming to work each day?

That’s easy. Seeing the children interacting with each other and our staff is always the highlight of my day. The early childhood wisdom, knowledge and experience that our staff brings to work each day is unmatched anywhere and it’s a daily joy to see them interacting with the children.

You mentioned the teaching staff. You’ve been here for 15 years—what can you say about the staff?

Our staff of teachers is the foundation of our extraordinary early childhood program. They are incredibly knowledgeable, experienced and committed. The average professional experience of our head teachers is 15 years, and all have master’s degrees. Our teachers average 10 years of early childhood experience, and many also have master’s degrees. We couldn’t have a better teaching staff to serve our children and families.

You often mention the “Bing community.” What do you mean by that?

To me the Bing community consists of the young children and their families, our staff, the professors and researchers, our advisors, our alumni, our donors, supporters and volunteers. In essence, it’s everyone who is involved with Bing and cares about Bing. I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to acknowledge the two most long-standing members of the Bing community—Helen and Peter Bing. They truly are the founding members of our Bing community and after 43 years of unwavering support for our school and our mission, they still set the standard for being involved and caring about Bing Nursery School. I have never seen a group as passionate, committed and involved as the Bing community.

Tell us about the Tower House. It’s a beautiful building, how will it be used?

This is the first school year the Tower House, the beautiful building next door, is part of Bing Nursery School. The renovation of the building for our use was a very generous gift from the Arrillaga and Bing families. It was dedicated and opened in June. It is a wonderful space and is already in use for staff development activities, documenting our teaching, preparing presentations and teaching our undergraduate courses. [See the article on the history and renovation of the Tower House on page 8.]

What is your vision for Bing going forward?

I am very committed to building upon the excellence in all the things we do here at Bing—in our early childhood education programs for children and families, in supporting the important research conducted here and in the undergraduate courses we offer for Stanford students.

I am also very interested in pursuing strategies for widening the distribution of the vast body of early childhood knowledge, wisdom and experience that resides here at Bing. I believe the Tower House is an excellent new resource for sharing what we know and do here. I envision it as the site of an institute for early childhood excellence, where we can serve the Bing community and the local, national and international early childhood education communities with seminars, events and programs.

Children are our most valuable asset, and I can’t imagine a more worthwhile ambition than reaching as far as we can to promote children, families and the field of early childhood education. There is tremendous potential ahead for Bing and I look forward to working with the entire Bing community in building upon the excellence and expanding the reach in all we do.