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Julia Cates

Assistant Director/Lead Teacher

Play Matters

Albert Einstein once said, “Play is the highest form of research,” and to quote Fred Rogers, “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning, play is really the work of children.” I believe my job as an educator is to facilitate learning by providing each child with a secure, stimulating, and rich environment; offering creative, engaging hands on activities; and giving each child the freedom to explore and direct their own play.  

I work on delivering these ideals to our school each day. I carefully think about the best way to engage children and how to present materials for children to comfortably access and explore.


I joined the Barn community in 1996 when my children began attending school, and over the next seven years I held a variety of board positions. In 2006 I joined the Acton Barn’s teaching team as a teaching assistant. I was inspired to return to school and I earned my teaching certificate and became Director certified.  I continue to take classes and attend workshops on childhood development. I enjoy incorporating what I learn into our school’s curriculum and best practices. I have a bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering from Penn State University; I worked as an architectural lighting designer in both New York City and in Philadelphia before moving to the Boston area.

I like to be active in my community.  I have worked on a variety of school and PTO committees, and with several local youth sports leagues.  I helped fundraise for the Acton/Boxborough United Way, and for the Acton Food Pantry.  

Julia Cates: TeamMember
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