New Drop-In Center head in Lake Forest loves the classroom
Lisa Spewak is the new director of the Gorton Drop In Center, 25 year-old membership-based program that offers early childhood care, education and summer camp activities for children ages six weeks to six years. | Rob Dicker ~ Sun-Times Media
NAME: Lisa Spewak
BEST KNOWN AS: Director of the Children’s Drop-In Center at the Lake Forest Gorton Community Center
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “It is my goal to create an environment that will foster a lifelong love for learning.”
Updated: September 10, 2012 6:04AM
LAKE FOREST — Lisa Spewak liked working in Lake Forest so much at the beginning of her career she jumped at the chance to return to the community where she started as an early childhood educator.
As the new director of the Children’s Drop-In Center at the Gorton Community Center, Spewak has implemented ideas for the flexible program that has served local children and families for the past 25 years.
Already the three classrooms have been repainted, curriculum refreshed and toys culled and replaced.
“I love the fact that I can be in a classroom teaching, but also making a path going forward — tweaking things to make them better, more current and available to kids,” Spewak said.
The new director started by combing through the well-loved and well-used classroom toys, saving what could be saved, including the favorite wooden play structure in the older kids’ room, and incorporating new toys donated by a closing business.
“We’re fortunate because we get lots of toy donations, but we needed to pare it down a bit and make it an engaging, calm and wonderful classroom,” Spewak said.
For those same reasons, the classrooms were repainted.
“Each classroom is now going to have its own personality,” Spewak said. “The color differentiation will be good for the kids. They’ll move from the green room to the blue room to the lavender room.”
That concept of “moving up” to a new classroom is one that Spewak believes is good for children. It gives them a goal and a growing sense of independence, she said.
The Children’s Drop-In Center welcomes area member families who can schedule time for their children to attend between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“Parents have to tell us 24 hours ahead what hours they are reserving for their children to come in,” Spewak said. “We have some children who come in on a consistent basis.”
In answer to parent requests, online registration and payment has been added and Amazing Athletes, an outside enrichment program, will be offered on site.
In a recent survey, Drop-In Center parents expressed interest in having outside programs offered in-house to eliminate shuttling their children from one activity to the next.
‘Connect the dots’
“If they’re already here for one program, then they can go to this class,” Spewak said. “However they want to connect the dots is great.”
Gorton Center Executive Director Brenda Dick believes Spewak, herself, has done a good job of connecting the dots.
“She has both sides — a strong classroom experience and administrative experience and she started her career in Lake Forest. She understands the community and she’s working hand-in-hand with the Parent Board,” Dick said.
The former director of early childhood education at the JCYS Northwest Family Center in Buffalo Grove, Spewak’s vision for Gorton is to have “a nice emergent curriculum” in Lake Forest.
Whenever children come in, Spewak’s goal is that they are “fully engaged, ready to go and comfortable in the setting and situation” so that each child can “take away from this experience as much as they possibly can.”
The Drop-In Center will host an open house for current and prospective members from 10 a.m. to noon on Monday, Aug. 20.
For more information, go to gortoncenter.org/drop-in.