Our teacher

Joani Lackie-Callighan is Program Director and Teacher at the Traverse City Cooperative Preschool.

She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Development and Elementary Education from MSU and has been an early childhood educator for more than 25 years, including schools within TCAPS and in Maryland and six years at the co-op.

Want to know more about Miss Joani? Read the article below, written by member mom Felicia Seeburger.

Joani Callighan — Bringing Joy, Compassion and Play to the TCCP Classroom

You would expect a classroom full of pre-schoolers to bubble over with laughter, yet you may be surprised who is leading the pack in the joyful mission of learning through play. Spend a few minutes with Traverse City Cooperative Preschool’s teacher, Joani Callighan, and you’ll quickly realize her joy and laughter are infectious. It’s not all fun and games for this woman, however, who pursues continuing education opportunities year after year, bringing the latest science-backed knowledge to the activities she incorporates in the classroom. Also essential in her mission to foster the love of learning in our preschoolers: humility and gratitude.

“I have the best job in the world,” she says. She aspires to bring a mindfulness to her job that truly appreciates the fragile and fleeting period of life we call childhood. “Do I shower their faces with love every day and have a connection with them that lets each child know they matter to me? That’s my goal for the children.” She wants them to know they are perfect as they are and believes a child is heaven on earth. In whom else would a parent wish to place their trust?

Some of the passions that inform her job are toddler brain development and sensory integration. These are the fundamental building blocks for all children’s learning, and no learning can occur without them. “Kids need a well-organized brain for future learning,” she explains, believing wholeheartedly that the true form of education comes through play. In fact, after almost 20 years as an early childhood educator at Traverse City Area Public Schools, it broke her heart to see higher grade material being consistently pushed down onto the youngest learners. The fit at TCCP couldn’t be better for this woman who incorporates learning through songs, plays, dancing, art and physical activity each day. She encourages imaginative thinking and play things that can be used in many different ways. One of her favorite classroom tools is the Kindness Garden: “I want children to know that an act of kindness toward others really makes the room more beautiful. When I see kindness happening, I ask a child to place a silk flower in the container…it’s a physical representation of beauty to mirror their kind acts.”

A step-mom to Elliot, aunt to many and wife to Phil, who works at Knorr Marketing, Joani enjoys many creative outlets: Hand-crafting natural fiber dolls and toys (she’ll tell you how wool warms to the touch when handled), writing children’s books (hopefully to be published one day), and writing puppet show stories for her classroom. If you get the chance, ask her about the stand-up comedy routine she performed once upon a time to rave reviews- it’s a funny story! She also enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing and reading.

“With so much of the world trying to quicken the pace of childhood, I’m doing what I can to slow childhood down.” Finally, the essence of Miss Joani’s belief in the value of children and her position at TCCP may best be summarized by one of her favorite quotes by Helen Keller: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.”