Recipes for a Healthy Start: An Interview with Venus McClure
Patty Stonesifer, Martha’s Table’s CEO, recently sat down with lead preschool teacher Venus McClure to discuss her path to Martha’s Table and the early childhood education field.
Patty: My first question is: why early childhood education?
Venus: During the summers between my college years, I interned and volunteered at childcare facilities in D.C., and I realized that the children I was working with were developmentally behind. I realized that there was a pattern of children in my community who were not getting what they needed. I also made links to my own life; I’m a product of D.C. public schools. When I went off to college at Tuskeegee University, I was behind.
Patty: But you were probably a star in your high school.
Venus: Yes! I got great grades and even gave a speech at my graduation, but when I got to college, my grades were horrible. I didn’t know how to get the information I needed to succeed in college.
So I started to think: when did I not learn how to learn? What I found out was it was in early childhood. So I made it my duty to make a difference.
Patty: Your classroom is so pretty. Even the little things, like the way you lay out crayons by color and display the children’s work with pride, are beautiful. What are you trying to accomplish with the physical space?
Venus: I look at the classroom as the third teacher. The parents are the first teacher, the classroom instructor is the second, and the classroom environment is the third. The children are supposed to be able to come in and explore—I want it to be a place for them to just learn.
Patty: You got into a little bit of your personal story—tell me more.
Venus: I grew up in Southeast D.C. and I still live there today. In Southeast, it was a little rough growing up. There were a lot of challenges and obstacles. I was not supposed to graduate high school and go off to college. There was a point when the trajectory for my life wasn’t positive. In fact, I had to transfer high schools after my freshman year because of bad behavior. But at my new school, I had that one teacher that instilled confidence in me and told me I could do it no matter what.
Patty: How does your coursework from graduate school inspire what you do in the classroom?
Venus: I learned to be intentional about your work, to have meaningful conversations, and to value the students. And that the space is very important. When you come into a space that’s clean and welcoming, and the children’s work is up on the walls, the children see that the teacher values their work. Even if it’s just a scribble, I find beauty in it because I value their contribution.
Patty: For the record, explain your job!
Venus: I am setting the foundation for our future doctors, lawyers, politicians, presidents, and teachers!