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Where Are All the Male Preschool Teachers?

A new San Diego preschool is creating father figures—and a hip-hop curriculum


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Tim Council and Albert Arpon are the driving force behind Treehouse Academy Children’s Center. | Photo: Paul Body

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Want to help the Treehouse Academy Children’s Center reach its goal? A dodgeball tournament fundraiser will be held August 13 at the Scripps Ranch Swim & Racquet Club. Or donate online.

Reading, writing, and rapping? A new preschool in Southeast San Diego will be adding elements of hip-hop culture like emceeing, dance, and graffiti art to its curriculum. The private school will also focus on providing male teachers—a rarity in the education sphere—as positive role models. Enter rappers Tim Council and Albert Arpon, the driving force behind Treehouse Academy Children’s Center.

“One in three children in the U.S. grows up in fatherless or father-figure-absent homes,” says Council, the academy’s CEO. “We also know there are fewer than 3 percent male teachers in early childhood education, and the numbers don’t go up by much in later years.”

At Treehouse, the minority will be the majority with its mostly-male staff. The private school aims to provide positive interactions for children who lack these experiences—a plus for parents, especially single mothers. Council says, “We want their children to leave our preschool being more confident in who they are and what they can do and achieve.”

Council and Arpon will be the two full-time teachers, with one or two part-time female aides and class sizes capped at about 24. Tuition rates will be $140 per week, with before- and after-school programs costing an additional $60 per week, but certain fees will be subsidized, and the co-founders hope to sponsor some families’ tuition for a year or two through grants.

There are fewer than 3 percent male teachers in early childhood education, and the numbers don’t go up by much in later years.

Council and Arpon, who serves as the academy’s president, met nearly two decades ago and performed together in a few music groups, including Ill Noize Tribe, before entering careers in childhood development. Together, they have more than 30 years combined experience in education.

A few years ago, they decided to blend their love of hip-hop with their passion for helping at-risk youth. They noticed a significant difference in the behavior of children with consistent male role models at home compared to those without. Soon, the idea for their nonprofit, Treehouse Academy, was born.

“The preschool will be a world where children can truly be themselves while they explore, discover, build new relationships, acquire developmental skills, make lasting memories, and, ultimately, feel free in a safe and nurturing learning environment,” Council describes. “We visualize a program that incorporates concepts of hip-hop to complement and reinforce typical preschool learning goals and objectives.” That includes emceeing to develop language, social, emotional, and cognitive skills; dancing for coordination and physical exercise; deejaying to learn musical patterns and rhythms; and graffiti for artistic expression.

The academy is currently fundraising to acquire the remaining two units of a three-unit property on Gamma Street before they can convert the space into the preschool. With any luck, they will find enough benefactors to open their doors September 2017. Preschool—it’s soon to be in session.

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