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Meet Bill Asp of Turning Sun Schools in Atlanta, East Lake and Tucker

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bill Asp.

Bill, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Turning Sun started as a half day preschool back in 2007. Our original founder (Alicia) looked at the preschool choices for her son and was disappointed with her options. So, she bravely started a program that offered all the things she could not find. And today her vision has evolved into a movement to improve early childhood education in Atlanta… and everywhere. With 3 locations serving hundreds of families daily and more planned in the future, we are making good progress and really enjoying the journey. Our educators and families work hand-in and to support our students best and we collaborate regularly with other schools to share insights and inspiration. Atlanta really seems to need more good preschools! Hopefully together we can meet the challenge.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road has actually been pretty smooth. Only challenges we have are having to turn away so many families each year. All of our campuses are 100% full with lengthy waitlists. So it really is heartbreaking to meet wonderful families who desperately want a better school for their child and we cannot accommodate them. Clearly Atlanta has a lot of families who are not satisfied with their childcare options. We plan to add more locations each year. But, it is our hope that other area preschools will evolve to the needs of parents today. Families want their kids up and playing instead of stuck at a desk with worksheets. They want their children to be treated respectfully and not scolded or put in “time out” anymore. They only want healthy food choices and non-commercial classrooms. And they want more schools to encourage diversity and a progressive approach rather than a traditional or religious curriculum.

Children possess multiple intelligences which are not embraced by most schools. How many of the most successful leaders today struggled in the traditional school system which didn’t see and support their brilliance? If Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs or Nelson Mandela would have enjoyed attending your school, then you are on the right path.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We so different than most schools in so many ways that it is sometimes hard to know where to start.

The biggest difference is our image of children.

Turning Sun believes that every child is capable, intelligent, strong, beautiful and unique. We are inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach and the poem by its founder Loris Malaguzzi, which identifies the hundred languages that children each possess. Children have their own rhythm which demands enormous patience, so Turning Sun students are always addressed at their own eye level with respectful, positive language so they will understand their rights and respect the rights of others.

Another huge difference is how we see our role as educators.

Children are naturally curious and motivated to learn, so there is no need for adults to “teach.” Research and experience tells us that if we allow students to be the protagonists of their own growth, their natural sense of curiosity will fuel their learning. TSS values the time and space children need to explore and discover. Our educators see their role as supporters of each child’s journey of self discovery.

Families really love that we allow students to learn through play and projects.

The absolute most important thing that your child must discover in preschool is that learning is fun! Experts now agree that, learning needs to be play-based and engaging. Through play, children seek knowledge by pursuing their own interests and academic skills grow organically in the process. The minute we introduce worksheets, progress charts or grades, the joy of learning is lost. Because our students ask questions and provide their own hypotheses, we then test and apply them as a group. Inevitably, real-world topics worthy of a student’s attention and effort emerge as class projects. Projects lead to further exploration of local communities and soon our students better understand their city and their ability to make a difference in it.

And finally, we explore nature daily!

One of our inspirations is Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods which warns about “nature deficit disorder.” So our campuses feature special outdoor spaces in our playgrounds, gardens and forests for our students to explore, listen, play, hike, collect, dig and build outside daily… rain or shine! Everyone is allowed to get messy at Turning Sun, so children often go home in their change of clothes but always, with a wonderful story to tell.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Metro Atlanta is a wonderful place to start a school or business of any type. There are so many wonderful families and children in need. Because there are so many businesses launching, the line to get through permitting and licensing can be long. Just persevere and all usually works out. I will say that we have really enjoyed our experience with Tucker City Hall as we launch our new location. Because, these outlying “boros” are hungry for more businesses and want them to have an easy path, these areas could really explode in the next few years.

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