Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

“I also learned from Sarah that an extraordinary day is about listening to children; giving them time and space to wonder, create, and invent new ways of learning. Sarah spent weeks prompting the children to consider, investigate, and revisit this extraordinary building through multiple representations. As the protagonist, she honored the children’s voices, not as passive actors in the play, but rather as equal contributors.” -Dr. Samara Madrid Akpovo

This quote highlights the work featured in a new piece, Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary: A Day in the Life of a Head Start Teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee. The piece has been featured in Childhood Explorer, a digital publication dedicated to sharing inspiring stories of childhood and advocating for high-quality education and care for children across the world.

In the article, Dr. Samara Madrid Akpovo, an associate professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies, shares her reflections and impressions of project work that took place in a Head Start classroom led by Sarah Neessen, a graduate of the CFS Pre-K/K program at UT. In the article, Neessen also shares her inspirations for honoring children’s voices and how she looks to the ordinary to engage children in impactful, meaningful curriculum. This piece is a wonderful reminder that sometimes, the most extraordinary learning experiences are right in our own backyard.

It is so important to the field of early education to tell these kinds of stories of childhood; stories that focus on children’s wonder and teachers that are willing to consider children’s voices when planning experiences for them. Thank you to Sarah Neessen and the Knoxville Head Start program for highlighting the great work that happens in classrooms every day, thanks to passionate, dedicated teachers.

If you are interested in learning more about our Pre-K/K Teacher Licensure Program, visit the website here or send an email to the Pre-K/K internship coordinator, Kathy Fitzgerald at