Leesburg Preschool Director Donates $1M to Longwood University

Longtime Loudoun County educator Jane Richardson Taylor recently gave $1 million to support a lifelong passion: educating young children.

She provided the hefty donation to Longwood University to establish an early childhood development center, which will open later this year.

Taylor is the director of St. John the Apostle Preschool in Leesburg. She’s worked at the preschool for 16 years, after a 20-year career in Loudoun County Public Schools.

For years she’d thought about donating money to further young people’s education in some way. She considered providing scholarships for graduates of Loudoun County High School, where she once taught and served as assistant principal.

But then, through her work at the preschool, she noticed a critical need for early childhood teachers. So she decided to target her donation toward bolstering Longwood University’s early childhood education program.

“I called Longwood up and said ‘I’d like to give $1 million—it just felt right,” she said.

While acknowledging it was unusual for a teacher to make such as donation, she said her family’s finances were private matters.

The money will create an early childhood development center, which will bear the name of Taylor’s son who died at 13 months old. The Andy Taylor Center for Early Childhood Development will provide a cutting-edge early childhood education to children of Longwood faculty and staff, as well as community members not affiliated with the university.

It will use what’s called the Reggio Emilia method of instruction, which encourages children to explore their environment and express themselves through art, drama, dance and sculpture.

The goal is to create a pathway for Longwood students to earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. “We don’t have that right now,” Taylor said. “There’s very little childhood education available at most state colleges, and the idea that I could help with a center that is actually going to work on that in a very innovative way and also provide classes and internships means so much.”

Sara Miller, the director and visionary behind the early childhood development center, said it’s rare for a program like this to be backed by a major donation right from the beginning. “To have someone who believes so fully in our vision for this center support us so completely gives us great energy and momentum as we move toward launch,” she stated. “Dr. Taylor is an inspiration to all of us who have worked on this project, and her interest and support will have a significant impact on generations of children.”

Taylor taught at Loudoun County High School for two years and went on to serve as its assistant principal for eight years. She then served as assistant principal at J. Lupton Simpson Middle School for 10 years, before leaving public education in 1996 to stay at home with her daughter. After taking four years off, she returned to the classroom, when she took the lead at St. John the Apostle Preschool. She said she’s always had a soft spot for babies and toddlers.

“I love working with children,” she said. “The little ones have so much love to offer. Every one of them is eager and excited about learning.”

Taylor will join Longwood officials at the grand opening ceremony of the Andy Taylor Center for Early Childhood Development this fall in Farmville.

dnadler@loudounnow.com
twitter.com/danielle_nadler

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