Radical Love: Q&A with Gina Forbes, Director of One Tree Center

A young student paints hearts at her desk
Student at One Tree Center. The school is founded on principals of Radical Love.

Gina Forbes is the Director of One Tree Center in South Portland, ME. The Center includes a preschool that holds the phrase Radical Love at the center of its principles. Radical, in the true meaning of the word, meaning “at the root”. This rooted focus on love informs Gina’s work and manifested itself through her scholarship at Goddard College.

How did you get from Goddard to One Tree Center?

I came to One Tree Center in 2013 on a leap of faith.

I had been a doula and childbirth educator for 10+ years. I was curious about becoming a trauma-informed practitioner, so I attended a training called Somatic Experiencing, which is a body-based trauma healing modality. I explained that I was looking to change my career, to find a new passion. Someone there connected me with Virginia Dearani, the founder of One Tree Center.

I interviewed for an assistant teacher position at One Tree’s preschool program called Roots and Fruits and have worked there ever since.

I began as an assistant teacher and soon realized that teaching young children was a passion that I needed to pursue. I looked into local colleges to go back and get my master’s (my undergraduate is in Psychology from Simmons College in Boston, MA). I couldn’t find the right fit and was expressing that to Virginia, who is also a Goddard Grad. She pushed me to look into Goddard and as soon as I stepped foot on the campus, I knew it was for me. Since that time, I received my Masters in Education from Goddard with a license in early childhood, I became lead teacher of the preschool program and then stepped into the role of Director. I am currently teaching at the program as well working as the Director at One Tree Center.

Young student meditating while on a field trip.

How do you see your students at One Tree reflecting student inquiry at Goddard?

One Tree Center is home to a preschool program based on the values of Radical Love. One Tree also has a summer camp for school-age kiddos called Arts for Social Change and we have a program for adult learners called the Seeds Institute. All of these programs aim to create love-based social change through curriculum rooted in peace, pluralism, and social justice. Classrooms and learning is very experiential and project-based, child/learner-led and hands-on. It’s also rooted in democratic process in the classroom. These values are ones that overlap with values that I believe Goddard holds at the heart of its mission as an educational setting. 

How would you describe the benefits of progressive education?

As an adult learner going back to school, I needed a unique place that would support me working while attending school. I needed to be hands-on and be able to use life experiences as learning experiences. Goddard made it possible for me to be passionate in my learning process going back to school for my Master’s. In general, I whole-heartedly believe in progressive education for all ages and have personally grown so much from my time at Goddard. I believe learning should be engaging, spark passion and be fun for all ages. Now, I strive to support the  a center rooted a progressive education as the Director of One Tree Center. 

One Tree Wholistic Learning Center in South Portland, Maine.

What would you say to a prospective student who is weighing their options on getting a degree, what does Goddard have that’s unique and valuable?

Goddard is what you make it to be- if you want real-life learning where you are empowered to delve into skills and knowledge which supports what you are passionate about, Goddard is the place. In addition the the progressive model, which worked really well for me, the relationships I formed there with kind, compassionate, and highly intelligent mentors inspired my work and my life. My peers were also deeply inspiring- so much so that I based part of my thesis on the work of peers in the program. I love that this was supported as we all entered into the next phase of our lives as educational scholars.

I came out of my 2 years at Goddard as not only a skilled educator, but as a better human being. 

Goddard College’s unique low-residency programs allows students the opportunity to co-create their learning plan with faculty advisers as they continue their life and work at home.  Gain your teaching license or school counseling license.   Progressive education means lifting the borders around subject areas to pursue your passions instead of working in the confines of required classes. No GREs or SATs required to apply. Find out more about Goddard’s BA and MA in Education programs by visiting https://www.goddard.edu/academics/bachelor-arts-education/  

To find out more about the 11 principles of Radical Love promoted at One Tree Center, visit https://onetreecenter.org/values/

Important Announcement

The Board of Directors for Goddard College have made the difficult decision to close the college at the end of the 2024 Spring term.  


Current Goddard students will have the opportunity to complete their degrees at the same tuition rate through a teach-out with like-minded institution, Prescott College. Updates and scholarship funds will be available in the coming weeks and months. Information will be posted to www.goddard.edu

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