Way back in 1981, Buckle My Shoe was the first preschool to open in Tribeca. Over the years it’s grown and now has two locations, one on Church Street and one in the West Village.
Founder Linda Ensko, while greeting her charges one morning, told us the story of how and why she started the school and what it means to be an early childhood educator. “As soon as you walk in the door you can hear the buzz of children at work; amazing things are happening in every corner of each classroom “, she says with a smile, after her students come in on a scooter, a bike or a carriage to begin their day. What’s clear is her passion and commitment to creating a nurturing and creative environment where the youngest of kids are allowed to develop and grow. As our educational consultant of 18 years says, “at Buckle My Shoe, children have to think a little harder.”
How did you come to found Buckle My Shoe?
I was born at St. Vincents hospital in the Greenwich Village and moved to Glen Cove, Long Island when I was two years old.
My mom was an educator who taught me to nurture and love children at a young age. I helped the moms in our neighborhood look after their little ones. I grew up surrounded by nature. Right after college I moved to Tribeca in 1976 and worked as a second-grade teacher in a private school with overcrowded classrooms in the West Village. The school was extremely top down and the children had no voice.
As I was walking home down Hudson Street one day, I stumbled across a group of toddlers celebrating a birthday party. It brought me back to the joy of these magical first years of early childhood and I immediately said, “I can do this, I can start a school.” In the late seventies, education was either extremely progressive or highly structured. I couldn’t find the right educational environment for children and so I found a way to create a balance with my own philosophy.
And so in 1981, I created the space, put up flyers in the West Village and began my school with seven two- and three-year-olds. I thought of the name “Buckle My Shoe” from the nursery rhyme. It was lyrical and children loved saying it.
How do you spend your days?
My day varies after 37 years of being at the helm as the creator and visionary of Buckle My Shoe.
I spend time in both schools, observing the pure happiness of the children and watching them evolve through their daily learning experiences. I also oversee the teachers, administrators, and parents to support their educational growth and development. I spend most of my time on the floor observing the classrooms and interacting with parents. At home, I take the time to focus on educational research that supports various approaches to enhance children’s learning.
I am currently writing a book on environments to help bring our Reggio Emilia and Developmental philosophy that we practice daily into homes of parents and children. (The Reggio Emilia approach is student-centered and utilizes self-directed, experiential learning in relationship-driven environments. The program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration.)
We have around 120 children in Tribeca and 45 in our West Village Location with about 35 teachers in both schools. We believe in small group sizes and ratios in order to give the proper attention to each individual child, creating their path for lifelong learning and preparing them for kindergarten.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
I live in Battery Park City and moved there six years ago after living in Tribeca for 13 years.
What’s your favorite time of day?
When the children arrive in the morning and their energy is high and they are so happy to be here with their friends and teachers.
What’s your favorite place in Lower Manhattan?
Hudson River Park. I walk my dogs by the water and am always amazed by the beauty of the river and the parks down in my neighborhood. My inspiration is catching a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.
Where do you shop? Favorite stores?
I love exploring the small boutiques in NoLiTa.
What do you read?
I am currently reading, The Untethered Soul which was given to me by a friend in St John, USVI.
What are your favorite cultural things to do downtown?
I love to visit the Smithsonian – National Museum of the American Indian, it’s a few short blocks away from my house. I also love visiting Governors Island and visiting Alwan for the Arts with my husband who is a musician.
Do you own a car?
Yes, we love to escape to our country home on the weekends with our dogs and be surrounded by nature!
What do you do to ‘relax’?
I love being in the ocean in St. John or Montauk.
My daughter, Genvieve has been a part of the Buckle My Shoe community since she was a newborn. She always spent her free time here at the schools and went on to follow my footsteps and study education. She currently works as an administrator here at Buckle My Shoe.
If you were to do it over again?
If I would do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love my life being surrounded by these beautiful children each day! What joy and magic they bring to us.
If I were to have another career, it would involve dogs. I would build a No Kill shelter and find a home for these amazing creatures that provide unconditional love. They are so innocent and in need of a secure home. My inspiration is the Animal Care Center of St. John located in Cruz Bay.
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