Preschool. My parents would drop me off there My childhood could only every day, and I would be described as magical. walk through a garden It was a time when my filled with exotic plants imagination could run before entering through wild and nothing was the open doorway. There impossible. It was a time I would be greeted by my when everything was here other family, the Twinkle and now, and I didn’t have family. The children were to worry about the future. not only my friends, but One thing in particular my siblings. The staff took stood out from those early care of me like my relayears, and it was a place tives. And Sétaré Fathí called Twinkle Twinkle was everybody’s mother.
Sétaré is the most selfless person I have ever known. Unlike some individuals, her reason for starting a preschool was clearly not the bottom line. As Laura Read, the school’s co-director put it, “you want to be loving and kind and there for the parents, and at the same time you have to be a business person, and that’s her hardest job… to actually say you owe me money.” But what is her true motivation behind
the preschool? According to Chrissy Hillard Valaga, a parent and volunteer at Twinkle “[Sétaré] doesn’t take in that much money… and so this is basically just out of the love of her heart that she does this job.” Over the years, the community has taken notice of her unique school, which goes on weekly field trips, has regular reading and writing lessons, and is constantly hosting special guests for the children. With all she provides to the children, her services have been in high demand. With room for about twenty children, “we usually have a waiting list and we’ve always been pretty full” says Sétaré, however “[if it were] bigger than that, I would lose
the personal touch. I like to be part of everybody’s family and really get to know every child.” To many people, Sétaré is like an open doorway through which she provides vital services to the community and includes you as if you were a part of her family. Through this doorway, you can see her true selflessness, which shows through her work at Twinkle Twinkle Daycare. Remarkably, when Sétaré was younger, she never dreamed of working with children, let alone Left: Twinkle Twinkle students get lots of time to play outdoors. Here you can see Laura and Rod supervising the children during play time.
running a preschool out of her own home. Sétaré grew up in Iran, where she became trilingual in Farsi, French, and some Turkish. “When I was little, I used to think [I would] build houses like my dad and be a developer,” says Sétaré. Unfortunately, when Sétaré was just thirteen, her architectural ambition was interrupted by the Iranian Revolution. Sétaré left the country and studied in France for two years while her father secured a job in Los Angeles.
later, Sétaré is still as devoted to the children got depressed in the hos- as she was in the beginpital.” After three years in ning and still retains the med school, Sétaré finally personal touch for every However, movsingle member of her discovered her dream. “I ing to the United States took a child development Twinkle family. In early for Sétaré “was culture September Sétaré celeshock… I didn’t speak any class… and then I noticed brated the birthday one of I really liked kids.” English… and I didn’t her students in her own After getting marknow where I belonged.” unique way. As Laura Sétaré picked up English ried, Sétaré moved to the says, “[Sétaré] goes above Bay Area, where she had rather quickly; although and beyond what most her first son and decided American customs still preschools will do… she to start Twinkle Twinkle escaped her at times. “ I celebrates every child’s wasn’t used to the culture Preschool out of her small home. With a rapidly ex- birthday very elaboratethat you have to apply to ly, and no birthday goes a lot of [universities], and panding number of chilaway without some balsomehow I thought when dren to take care of, Sétaré loons and presents and you apply you get in,” says needed to relocate Twinkle cakes and crowns and a Sétaré, who was accepted Twinkle Preschool. “Our book.” She was right about bedroom was nap room, at UCLA. When I asked our son’s bedroom was the that. Earlier in the week, her about her plans in Sétaré had each student college, she said “I thought play room and the office write birthday wishes I was going to take care of was another nap room,” which were compiled into people and be a doctor… says Sétaré, who eventuala book. She then gave the and so I went to pre-med.” ly moved to a larger house book as a present to the where she would have a But that didn’t seem to dedicated side just for the student, along with several work out, especially after other personalized gifts. school. she told me “I noticed I Although the student Twenty-three years
didn’t think much of the thought put into the gifts, her parents certainly did, and thanked Sétaré for her generosity. One of the most notable things about Sétaré is the way she reminds me of my grandmother; she is always giving hugs, offering to give you food, and asking personalized questions. “My main goal,” Sétaré tells me, “ is making sure these children remember their young ages as a happy time, as a time they were loved, as a time the teachers and friends were excited to see them. As a good beginning to step away from home and feel accepted in their new environment” Clearly, it’s hard not to feel at home when you’re around her. However, she
does struggle with the fact that Twinkle Twinkle Preschool is, well, a business. For Sétaré, managing the payroll is more challenging than anything else, because as Laura puts it, “[when] you develop such a close relationship with the families, it’s hard to be that business person.” Unfortunately, business is not just about collecting bills, but also managing expenses. And with all that Sétaré has to offer such as field trips, music teachers, and science teachers, those expenses add up quickly. Not to mention what she spends on everyday supplies for the school and gifts for the children. Luckily, Sétaré always has help from her staff and volunteers. “[They] all try to keep me in reign
on budgeting because I’ll forget it. I spend like crazy… cause I love to buy things and get things for kids,” says Sétaré, while “[Chrissy] deals with all the communication and tells me what I need to do.” With all the help she receives, Sétaré is able to be people-centered rather than business-centered, allowing her more time to spend with the children. The future for Sétaré certainly deviates from that of most people. I thought retirement was surely on the horizon for a hard working person like Sétaré, but once again she showed her devotion to the Twinkle family. “I haven’t thought of… not [being] able to take care of Twinkle, what I would do with my life. I try always
to be the best I can be right now” Sétaré tells me. However, Sétaré also mentions “it would be nice if [Twinkle Twinkle] would keep on going after me, and it kept on being a positive place where kids could feel happy and safe.” It is incredible to think that Sétaré would not have a clear plan laid out for her future, but at the same time it is remarkably revealing. Sétaré is once again proving her generosity and dedication to her Twinkle family because rather than having concerns for the future, she would rather “deal with every moment of the day as right now.” Even without a clear path for the future, Sétaré will still serve as a doorway for children and parents to feel included in a new family, the Twinkle family. “That’s a great benefit of living around children… they really are wonderful teachers to us grown-ups to remind us to live in the right now and live at the moment.” -Sétaré Fathí