Stories of Learning and Hope

Meet the teachers – LINC Preschool

At ISSofBC we have two pre-schools available for Learning Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) students at our Vancouver and Richmond locations. Each plays a key role in allowing new parents to continue their studies while their children learn, play and make new friends nearby! 

As it is Childcare Appreciation Month in British Columbia, we wanted to highlight the wonderful teachers who make our preschool so special. We spoke to Tara Browman in Vancouver and Maria Castaneda in Richmond to learn what it’s like to be a preschool teacher at ISSofBC: 

Maria Castaneda and Tara Browman at our preschools in Richmond and Vancouver

Could you please tell us a little about yourself? 


My name is Tara, I’m an Early Childhood Educator, graphic artist and mother of two living and working in Vancouver.


My name is Maria Elena Castaneda Camarillo and I’m originally from Mexico City. I came to Canada in 2001 with my husband and two children and we spent a few days at ISSofBC Welcome Centre. While I waited for my children to grow up and go to elementary school, I continued to learn English and Canadian culture. It was not easy, but we found nice people who helped us to settle down in Canada. Now my sons are older, and they have joined the Canadian Armed Forces, and I have a job that I love! 

How long have you been a preschool teacher at ISSofBC, and why did you decide to join its preschool? 


I was first introduced to ISSofBC as a practicum student eight years ago. I loved the program so much that I became a substitute teacher after my practicum and took a full-time maternity leave position with the team a year and a half ago.

The Vancouver preschool team of educators are passionate about early learning and excellent at what they do. Additionally, I love that we get to meet and get to know children and families from all over the world, and learn about their languages, foods, customs & cultures.


I started working at ISSofBC as an on-call childminder at the Welcome Centre, after that I spent one year working as a substitute teacher at our Terminal location and then ten years in our Richmond pre-school

Please tell us about the preschool and your work there: 


The preschool at ISSofBC’s Vancouver location is an English immersive program. The preschool runs in tandem with the adult LINC classes (the parents’ classrooms are one floor above us).

Our program is based on an emergent curriculum, which means that it is lead by the children and their interests. This is an exciting way to approach learning as the children are more engaged. As educators we consistently meet to talk about ways to be responsive to their interests and expand learning opportunities for the group.


Our program is based on free play, where the children have full freedom to play whatever they want. As an ECE we follow the children’s interest, we give them the freedom to explore, investigate and create. We believe that children are capable and full of curiosity.  

My role as a teacher is to deliver a program where the children find material according to their developmental level and to create a space where the children feel safe, respected and included. More importantly, as their teacher, the children find a friend who is willing to listen and learn with them and to show empathy regardless of any language barrier.  

What do you most enjoy about being a preschool teacher and why? 


Being a preschool teacher is an intrinsically rewarding (though not a highly compensated) profession. I enjoy building relationships with the team, children, and families, and thinking of creative ways to engage in learning with the teaching team. Our days are busy and full, we are on our feet most of the time, it’s dynamic work and full of surprises.


I enjoy most being around the children, finding out that they are amazing, and I can help them when they are stressed and anxious. The children are honest, gentile, fragile and resilient! 

What’s been your favourite moment/memory from your time as a teacher? 


There have been so many great moments. Recently we had a parent who had henna on her hands, we asked about it and she brought the teachers some to try. It was great to connect my two worlds as my children and I researched to learn more about henna as well as Ethiopia (where this particular family was from). I feel like this is a good example of the beauty of cultural exchange that we often see at ISSofBC.

The preschool offers a great chance for children to learn about different cultures, as shown here with some henna art work!


My favorite moments are when I see a child laughing, caring, and playing with other children. A child came to our school for the first time and he was crying and upset. He threw away all the material that was on the table and hit and kicked the door. He didn’t even allow me to even get close to him.  

After a couple of weeks, he allowed me a little closer and then a few months later he was able to come in without crying and screaming. To see him finally engage in activities and playing , that gave me huge satisfaction and showed that I did a good job.  

As it is Child Care Month in BC, why do you think childcare is important for young children and their parents? 


Early Childhood Education is an incredibly important and undervalued profession. Did you know 90% of brain development happens before children enter Kindergarten? This is when neural pathways are pruned, and connections are made that will last their lifetime. Because of this much of our work focuses on social-emotional development. It’s a time when they learn how to learn. In addition, it’s a time when children take in and engage with the broader world around them, beyond their family unit.

At ISSofBC, our work is extra important as our families are newcomers, who often do not have a community in Vancouver, so the families often require our support with the challenges of parenting in their new country. It is also important to remember that children currently in preschool programs have never known a time before COVID-19. As educators, we are seeing quite significant developmental impacts from the societal changes that CoVID 19 created and has made our work much more challenging over the past few years.


I strongly believe that providing early childcare promotes health at their emotional level, meaning that we can help children develop skills they need for success in their future lives such as social, emotional, cognitive, and communication skills. 


Thank you, Maria and Tara, for all that you do with our pre-school students!  

If you’re interested in learning more about your children joining our preschool at either Vancouver or Richmond, visit our LINC page. 

We also have several opportunities to become a teacher at our preschools, so visit our job pages to apply! 

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