Rainbow Garden Preschool in Los Angles celebrated its 10th Anniversary this past weekend. We interviewed Ilka Sternberger on the occasion of this event.
June 2, 2018 marked a special day for Ilka Sternberger. Her preschool Tivoli Rainbow Garden Preschool in L.A. celebrated its 10th anniversary and Ilka herself was honored by her school community. A school community that has become family over the years and has turned parents into friends.
Ilka, a gifted educator, who immigrated to the United States from Wiesbaden 29 years ago, has become indispensable for families of the German community in and around Los Angeles. Parents love her for creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for their children while being immersed in the German language and learning all about German traditions as well.
That’s why parents wanted to make sure to let her know just how grateful they are for her creating such a wonderful and peaceful learning environment that sparks the imagination of their children every single school day. The 10-year anniversary party this past Saturday was full of surprises. From special speeches to a video full of memorable moments and special dedications.
In our interview, Ilka Sternberger shares with us how she started Rainbow Garden preschool 10 years ago, and what an impact this had not only on her life but on so many others as well.
Ilka, please tell us what brought you here to California?
Ilka: In my mid 20’s, after I had finished my studies to become a Sports and Gymnastics teacher, I started venturing out to learn about different countries. The USA seemed to be a good place to go, since I had traveled there before and was speaking the language already! I love California!! I love the warm climate and the people are much happier than in Germany.
What made you start a German-speaking preschool in Los Angeles? We’d love to hear your story.
Ilka: Of course! After becoming a mother to a beautiful daughter, I became a Certified Lactation Specialist, Postpartum Doula and Waldorf Teacher. My vision was to help and support mothers and families on their journey as parents and to simultaneously build a platform for families, who wanted to embrace their German heritage. As I knew I wanted the same for my daughter. In 2001 I started the very first German-speaking playgroups, infant-parenting support classes, and Mommy and Me classes here in Santa Monica/Los Angeles. Teaching these groups, I learned that parents wanted the opportunity for their children to learn the German language and culture as they grew older. Thus, Tivoli Rainbow Garden Preschool, a bilingual German-English program, naturally developed, in 2008.
Did you face any challenges starting your school?
Ilka: Yes, in fact, opening Tivoli Rainbow Garden Preschool, was not easy! It took a leap of faith for me and for the parents who believed in me and my abilities. The families who I already had worked with, in my groups, were essential and helped me with the initial funding to launch Tivoli. I feel forever grateful – I couldn’t have done it without them!
What do families love most about your preschool?
Ilka: The alumni and parents of Tivoli love my approach to parenting – how I see their child as a special individual and how much I care to help each child grow at their own pace and timing. AND they get the German language education and culture. At Tivoli we celebrate all festivals that parents remember from their own childhood. I let the children get immersed in nature at my school, away from the hustle and bustle. Tivoli has a beautiful garden where they can dig in the dirt and take care of animals. The children thrive on the love and guidance they receive here and the freedom to be who they are.
Taking a reflective look back . How do you feel about having started your school?
Ilka: Looking back at the past ten years, I see what wonderful opportunity it was to open a bilingual preschool. I grew tremendously in my abilities and transformed myself to be the head of a very special school/program, embodying a unique philosophy, a school that gives the parents and children the stability they need in this fast-changing world.
What are your wishes and plans for the future?
Ilka: In the future, I plan to create a mentor program for bilingual early childhood teachers and want to spread the word about all the good things that come with German immersion education and guidance paired with a splash of Waldorf and a deeply caring heart for the children.
10 years! What are your feelings looking back?
Ilka: 10 years of Tivoli is definitely a reason to celebrate! What can I say… I am just so excited, but most of all, I feel very grateful to have been able to touch so many little souls in these past 10 years! I also want to honor the community, the families and teachers, that have been so important to Tivoli and the work, that has been done here. As German expats and German immigrants living here in LA, the community we create here and the experience we offer to our children is influential and important work. I took my love for children, for community and for my German heritage, and together with everyone’s help, I created Tivoli Rainbow Garden Preschool, a little bit of magic here in Los Angeles.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Ilka! Congratulations on your 10th anniversary of Rainbow Garden Preschool!
Tivoli Rainbow Garden Preschool in Los Angeles
Founder & Principal: Ilka Sternberger
Phone: (310) 301 9147
Credits: All images ©Tivoli Rainbow Garden Preschool