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Broomfield’s Magical Unicorn of Early Education

Families find a loving community at Bal Swan Children’s Center

Krash is completely non-verbal and came to Bal Swan per the recommendation of his former childcare center. “They just didn’t have the resources to meet his needs,” his mother, Meagan Krough, laments. Thankfully, Bal Swan is the magical unicorn of early education. Bal Swan lives out its vision of social-emotionally focused, inclusive education. “Everybody wins from having more inclusivity in the classroom,” emotes Meagan. “Kids gain confidence in being with others who don’t look like them, or talk like them. It sets them up for a lifetime of empathy and understanding,” she explains. Krash has gained meaningful friendships over his years at Bal Swan. “It’s amazing how much he can communicate without words!” shares Meagan. Krash’s growth and success are due to numerous factors at Bal Swan, not the least of which is Center Director Debbie Kunz. The warm, loving director of Bal Swan goes to great lengths to get each student exactly what they require to excel. When a need arises, Debbie says, “We’ll figure out the finances. What does this kid need to learn and grow?” Like Mrs. Kunz, the whole staff are solution-based, not problem-based, thinkers.

“It takes a village, and this is my village,” Sara Pringle proudly says about Bal Swan Children’s Center. “We all work together to make a difference in children’s lives now to prepare them for the rest of life.” The veteran teacher started her career at a traditional daycare center and ended up loving building relationships with the children and parents. Pringle stayed on for twelve years, but after more than a decade of watching families, like the Kroughs, get turned away from the daycare for their children’s challenges or behaviors, she knew a change was in order. Often hearing things like “We can’t give your child what they need,” discouraged Sara. She wondered if she was even making a difference in the world in her current setting.

Enter Sara’s neighbor, part of the Bal Swan family, who suggested looking at Bal Swan. In Sara’s backyard stood a one-of-a-kind, inclusive education center for both neurotypical and neurodivergent children. Though they weren’t hiring, Sara knew she had to work at Bal Swan. Pringle knocked down some doors, won a coveted job teaching at Bal Swan, and fourteen years later hasn’t looked back. Sara Pringle isn’t the only one who’s fought to work at Bal Swan. Her colleague, occupational therapist Dani Pasquarelli, also did all she could to become part of the incredible Bal Swan family. Pasquarelli needed full-time employment, but Bal Swan had a part-time position available. Dani persisted, and with her personality and qualifications, Bal Swan director Debbie Kunz found a way to bring her on.

At that point in her career, Dani was on the hunt for something more than a traditional therapy setting could offer. Beginning her occupational therapy career in a clinic, seeing children for only thirty minutes, once a week frustrated her. “There’s only so much you can do when you see a client in isolation,” Dani rues. “You suggest ideas and send them home or to school, but you don’t really know if they’ve been implemented.” When Pasquarelli heard about Bal Swan, she had to find out more. She learned about the school’s unique collaborative approach, and it was all she could do to refrain from banging down the director’s door.

“Everyone who works here really wants to be here,” Dani asserts. Bal Swan’s teacher retention affirms her sentiment. Over a dozen employees have made Bal Swan their home for more than a decade. The support they receive from one another, from parents and from the school’s director are unparalleled in other environments. “You need help and send an email,” shares Pasquarelli, “and six people show up at your door! Or if a child is having a meltdown in the hallway, three different people stop to offer help!” From the twenty six loving teachers to the five different therapists, everyone is in it together. Speech, behavior and occupational therapists meet with parents, teachers and children, suggest ideas to help, and then get to watch how effective they are. “We get immediate feedback and can modify our therapies,” explains Dani. Everyone plays a vital role in the synergistic functioning of Bal Swan. 

The facility manager, Julio, takes time out of his tasks to comfort a crying child and retrieve lost balls from over the fence. The Director of Bal Swan herself, puts in well over sixty hours a week, being the first one in, and the last one to leave. Debbie Kunz knows the name of every child at the learning center and her care extends well beyond that. Manal Sabri, Bal Swan’s Speech and Language Therapist, shares a favorite memory of her time at the school. During Manal’s first day at Bal Swan, one of the students with limited language skills at the time, was struggling with big emotions. Sabri observed how everyone stepped in to help him until he started to feel better. When the student looked out of his support bubble to see Debbie, his face lit up. He called her name, and she gave him a big hug. He wanted to stay with her, so she took him to her office and read him books until he was ready to go back to class. The love and the connection Manal saw amazed her! From that first day until now, Sabri continues to see similar situations daily.

The staff aren’t the only amazing resources blessing this incredible education center. The facility feels more like a home, boasting many other unique attributes, such as a warm water therapy pool and a low sensory room for calming. Warm water therapy boosts independence, surrounds students with calming warmth, and lifts little bodies with buoyancy that expands movement and enhances mobility. Safety plus independence means greater strides are made inside the pool than outside of it. Therapists have had the privilege of watching some children take their first steps unassisted in the pool at Bal Swan. 

The collective collaboration found at Bal Swan, along with the unique social-emotional inclusive education offered by the caring teachers and therapist, craft a special environment not found in many other settings. Early education directors travel from around the globe to our own community to witness this unique program. What a gift to have an educational anomaly right here in Broomfield. And unlike less equipped institutions, Bal Swan tries not to turn away students because of their challenges. Families who have been rejected elsewhere find a home at Bal Swan and receive the gift of their children’s first steps toward a lifetime of success. 

Bal Swan does not thrive alone, and would not exist without the philanthropy, volunteerism and heart of this community.  On March 2, Bal Swan will celebrate its 60th annual Bal Swan Ball, "Our Story Starts with You."  In addition to the typical evening of inspiring stories, delicious eats, dancing, and silent and live auctions, this story-booked theme Ball will highlight the story of Bal Swan Children's Center told by community members who have seen generations benefit from the school. The very first teacher of the school, Ms. Ann Hoffman, will also be in attendance. All proceeds go directly toward reducing the deficit between high quality early childhood education and therapy services and the revenue received in tuition. It promises to be an evening as uniquely inspiring as Bal Swan itself.

"Bal Swan is the magical unicorn of early education."

"Families who have been rejected elsewhere find a home at Bal Swan."

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