Angel in the Nursery

Karen Kapoor 

By Regina Canuso

Opening and running a new childcare program is never easy, even in the best of times, so it is particularly notable that Karen Kapoor has successfully launched Foundry Montessori school, a woman- and minority-owned business, during a pandemic. Located in Cold Spring, NY and serving 21 children aged 3 to 6, Foundry Montessori was licensed by OCFS and opened in June, 2021. 

Basic to the philosophy of Montessori is for children to get to know the community and natural world around them, according to Karen, so “we do a lot of exploring by foot”. Karen has been a leader in the community, gathering volunteers to support the nearby West Point Foundry Preserve which provided the inspiration for the name of the school, and where children spend a lot of time exploring its many features, including walkways, a marsh, waterfall and river. It made sense to Karen to name the school after this local resource so important to the children’s development, because a foundry is a foundation and “philosophically we are building the foundation of great minds” in her program.

Though Karen contends that the children have been “resilient” during the pandemic, she acknowledges the challenges, especially because of social distancing and wearing masks. Though they started the year masking consistently inside but had the option of being mask-free when outdoors, after a Covid case occurred, the rules tightened and since then children are masked and socially distanced out of doors as well as inside. 

Karen states that “not being able to see people’s mouths makes a difference”. In order to optimize communication even while masked, teachers use their “theatrical side” with gestures such as hand and eye cues, and when kids are especially in need to see their lips to know how a word is formed, teachers will momentarily stand at a distance and pull down their mask to mouth a word or sound. Children are taught to pay attention to and ask each other how they are feeling to compensate for not seeing each other’s faces fully. In spite of all these efforts, children are having “a lot of problems with articulation” and  five of 21 enrolled children are now getting speech therapy. Karen says “I blame the mask”, as usually there would be only one or two who need speech services. 

Because early childhood is the “most essential” time for building a foundation for lifelong learning, Karen is passionate about giving children as many experiences to help them grow as is possible, even within the limitations imposed by the pandemic. As parent Naomi Cook has noted, “Karen understands how children think, so no matter where they’re coming from emotionally, developmentally, and academically, it feels like she can get into the child’s head and really work with them to grow in all those areas. Her enthusiasm for children, learning and all things human, just make her one of the best educators I’ve ever met!”

For her creativity and leadership in designing and running an excellent childcare center, especially in the midst of a pandemic, NYZTT is delighted to present Karen Kapoor with the designation of “Angel in the Nursery”.