Developing Children’s Academic, Social and Emotional Skills

The Secret Garden Preschool was founded by Laurie Smith in June of 1998. We are a small family owned neighborhood preschool serving mostly Capitol Hill, Montlake, Madison Park, Madison Valley, and Madrona families in Seattle WA

With our focus on academic, social, and emotional growth as well as community, the Secret Garden Preschool offers many opportunities for our students to become well-rounded individuals, great students, and conscientious citizens. Through hands-on learning, children are encouraged to explore and use their imaginations. The curriculum is rich with art, science, music, dance, literature, math and is balanced with opportunities for child-directed play.

We offer educational programs for children 2 1/2 to 6 years of age in Twos / Threes, Fours, and Pre K Classes. Our programs have proved to be a great foundation for success in their future educational experiences.


The preschool years are one of the greatest times of discovery, learning, and exploration. Children are discovering their feelings, learning lifelong social skills and expanding their intellectual horizons by leaps and bounds. The Secret Garden Preschool provides a safe and supportive environment where your child can develop in all these ways.


Perhaps the most challenging area of growth for preschoolers is their emotional and social development. One of the primary goals of our program is to help children learn the skills of sharing, problem-solving, cooperation, and expressing feelings and desires verbally. We help children acquire these skills through lots of positive guidance and by role modeling. We want our students to learn the importance of compassion, kindness, and respect for all. The teachers at the Secret Garden Preschool teach by these values.

We believe that in order to build a strong sense of community within our school, we must begin with each child as an individual. The more children learn about themselves and their abilities, the more confident they will be both about themselves and with interacting and contributing to a group. The main way we promote this self-confidence and self-esteem is by giving children a lot of individual attention on a daily basis. Our low student to teacher ratios (5/6:1) allow us to meet individual interests, abilities and learning styles.

One other key element of our curriculum is to give children ample time to engage in child-directed play and discovery. We give the children a lot of "hands-on" type of materials that they can explore with each day. Choice time is one key component of the daily schedule. Play is one of the first steps in the process of learning. We view play as a gift that all children innately possess. We are here to nurture that gift and to take part in it whenever we can.

At the Secret Garden Preschool, we learn through playing, painting, drawing, building, dancing, singing, telling stories, exploring, and just being together as a community of friends and lifelong learners.

Our Staff


Laurie Smith opened the Secret Garden Preschool in 1998. She is the Director, as well as a teacher, at the Secret Garden. Laurie has a BS in Zoology, both an MS and a PhD in Microbiology and received her teaching certificate from the University of Washington as well. Because of her science background, Laurie loves working with the kids on science projects and introducing them to some basic scientific concepts.

Laurie loves her work at the Secret Garden and finds that the children are still able to teach her new things after all these years. She lives in Seattle with her husband, Greg, and her three children: Gemma, Max, and Emily.

Debbie has taught at the Secret Garden since 2008. She has been a part of the school since its beginning as a parent, Director of Admissions, and now teacher. She has worked with children in a variety of roles including as an assistant teacher for a Pre-K school and as a reading advocate for a Capitol Hill K-12 school. Debbie's experience as a teacher and parent makes her a valued resource to the school.

Debbie has a BA from the University of Florida and lives in Seattle with her husband, Bob, their three children Shannon, Connor, and Tierney and their dog, Jack.

Emily has a B.S. in Psychology and Family Studies and a M.Ed with an emphasis on School Counseling. She has worked at Childhaven, a day treatment center for abused and neglected children. Her Secret Garden journey started with being the nanny for the Smith family. She was their nanny for three years and slowly worked her way into the preschool. She taught for 3 years from 2002-2005. After that, she took some time off to start her own family. She never went far and was happy to come in and observe children and help where needed. Emily returned to the Secret Garden as a full-time teacher in 2014.

When not teaching Emily is a taxi service for her three children to all of their activities and social obligations. Occasionally, she sneaks away to the soccer field.

Our Specialists

Teacher Sandy is our longtime music specialist at Secret Garden since the beginning of our school. Sandy incorporates music from many cultures and teaches important lessons about things like peace, respect, kindness, and compassion through the songs she teaches. Sandy teaches through a method called Kodaly and has built a music program that enriches our curriculum in countless ways. Sandy has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and has also studied Child Growth and Development.

Teacher Christine is our dance specialists. Christine has lots of experience in the preschool world as well as with older children who she teaches at the Cornish College of the Arts.