Mainspring Receives Top CLASS Scores

In the last year, in conjunction with the Austin Independent School District (AISD), we conducted a full CLASS assessment of our teaching staff. What does CLASS tell you? According to Teachstone:

  • CLASS uses research-driven insights to improve how teachers interact with children every day to cultivate supportive, structured, and engaging classroom experiences.

  • CLASS is a flexible tool that focuses on the heart of great teaching: the teacher-student interactions proven to drive learning and development.

  • CLASS helps child-care providers nurture children's early learning while responding to their needs. As children enter preschool, their sense of themselves is grounded in, and dependent on, relationships. CLASS helps preschool teachers foster a secure, supportive base for learning and exploration.

This is an important marker of high-quality early childhood education and we are proud to share our results!

  Dimension 2017 National Head Start Program Mean Scores 2017 Mainspring Scores
Emotional Support Positive Climate 6.01 6.63
  Negative Climate 1.07 1.00
  Teacher Sensitivity 5.88 6.10
  Regard for Student Perspective 5.45 5.83
Classroom Organization Behavior Management 6.00 6.25
  Productivity 6.14 6.14
  Instructional Learning Framework 5.35 5.46
Instructional Support Concept Development 2.49 5.00
  Quality of Feedback 2.99 4.92
  Language Modeling 3.51 4.88

The Classroom Assessment Scoring System™ (CLASS) “is the only observational teacher-assessment tool that captures teacher behaviors linked to students gains and that has been proven to work in tens of thousands of classrooms, from preschool to high school and beyond,” according to the University of Virginia.

Recommended reading: The science of adult capabilities

We highly recommend that you read this article from Harvard's Center on the Developing Child. It is a great summary of core capabilities -- falling primarily under the umbrellas of self regulation and executive function -- that everyone needs to truly succeed. And those capabilities are developed in a child's early years:

"The foundation is built in early childhood: By age 3, most children are already using executive function skills in simple ways (e.g., remembering and following simple rules). Ages 3-5 show a remarkable burst of improvement in the proficiency of these skills."

The article also talks about factors that can derail the development of these skills, including:

  • Serious early adversity and trauma
  • Chaotic, threatening, or unpredictable environments
  • Highly rewarding stimuli such as food or drugs
  • Poverty

It is great insight into the development of our kids and what we are striving to accomplish. 

Mainspring Schools Hosting First Annual Golf Scramble Benefiting the Rudi Andrus Scholarship Fund

Date: Sunday, November 12
Registration and Practice: 1-2:30 p.m.
Shotgun Start: 2:30 pm
Location: Falconhead Golf Club, 15201 Falcon Head Blvd., Austin, TX 78738
Price: $250/individual golfer, $1000/team of 4

Participate in a 9-hole golf scramble and help a child! Mainspring Schools’ first annual Golf Scramble will be held Sunday, October 15 at Falconhead Golf Club in Austin. Proceeds will go to the Rudi Andrus Scholarship Fund, which allows disadvantaged kids to stay in school by filling the gap when there is a temporary disruption in tuition funding.

Approximately 75% of children attending Mainspring School are from families living below the poverty level and receive tuition assistance from various sources. Without this scholarship fund, families would have to withdraw from Mainspring and children would not get the attention and nutrition needed to prepare them for kindergarten socially, emotionally and educationally.

Rudi Andrus, Executive Director of Mainspring from 2006-2017, never wanted a child to have to leave the school because of temporary financial difficulties. Because of her kindness, generosity, and dedication to the families of Mainspring, the Rudi Andrus Scholarship Fund was established in her honor upon her retirement.

Click here to register.

Our 75th Anniversary Luncheon: Please join us!


On Thursday, April 28, 2016 the community will come together to celebrate Mainspring's 75th Anniversary of existence. We hope you can join us for this very special Luncheon celebrating 75 years of service to the children and families of Austin. Since 1941, Mainspring is a best-in-class nonprofit preschool that eliminates the early childhood school readiness gap. 

Mainspring Schools started in 1941 in response to the needs of 'Rosie the Riveter.' Women across America - and here in Austin - were going to work, and needed high-quality care for their children while they were gone. 

Mainspring Schools has been a pillar in our community ever since. We invite you to celebrate this incredible milestone with us!

Mainspring Schools' 75 Anniversary Luncheon

Thursday, April 28 · 11:30 - 1:00

Renaissance Hotel's Glass Oaks Ballroom

9721 Arboretum Blvd.  Austin, Tx 78759

Featured Speaker

Javier Auyero, Professor of Sociology at UT, author of Invisible in Austin

The team that wrote the book that everyone is talking about will present their findings at theMainspring Schools Learning Starts Here Luncheon. This dynamic, high-tech city is also home to many that live in poverty; this is their story. And, these are the very families that Mainspring works to equip with tools for success.


Sponsorship Details


  • 2 tables of 10 with prominent placement
  • Event signage and special mention from podium
  • Listing in event program, all publicity materials and on Mainspring Schools web page


  • 1 table of 10 with prominent placement
  • Event signage and special mention from podium
  • Listing in event program, all publicity materials and on Mainspring Schools web page


  • 8 Luncheon tickets
  • Event signage and special mention from podium
  • Listing in event program, all publicity materials and on Mainspring Schools web page

STRAIGHT As ● $1,500

  • 4 Luncheon tickets
  • Signage near the podium at the Luncheon
  • Listing in event program, all publicity materials and on Mainspring Schools web page


  • 2 Luncheon tickets
  • Signage near the podium at the Luncheon
  • Listing in event program, all publicity materials and on Mainspring Schools web page 


  • 1 Seat at Luncheon Table 
  • Listing in event program

Your Chance to Attend the Sold-Out PGA Championship Tournament in Austin

For just $5, you can support disadvantaged children in Austin and get a chance to win two 5-day passes to the sold out PGA World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play, held March 23-27 at Austin Country Club and featuring the world's top golfers, like Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and more.

To enter, visit Raffle tickets are $5 each or 5 for $20. 

All proceeds support the Mainspring Schools' food program, which has been feeding disadvantaged children in Austin for 75 years. Our children are served the nutritious meals they need to fuel their growing minds and bodies. These meals are essential to their social, cognitive and overall development as sometimes, these are the only consistent meals our students receive. By supporting our food program you will feed them not only nutritionally but also catapult their overall well being to be successful young citizens of our community.


Winners will be announced March 14 on our site and the winner will also be contacted by email.


Thanks for supporting the kids!

Food Fights over Veggies

by Rudi Andrus, Executive Director


I keep a picture of my 2-year-old self on the bulletin board beside my desk. It reminds me of how innocent and sweet children are...except when it comes to eating their vegetables!



I still remember the food fights at our kitchen table when my brother and I were little. It turns out, neither one of us wanted those lima beans. But our mother wanted us to get a balanced diet. She kept telling us, "They're an acquired taste!"


At Mainspring, we avoid the food fights...while helping our children acquire the taste of vegetables. We have a top notch nutrition program that features whole foods, lots of fruits and veggies, beans, and whole grains.  Here is a link to one of our menus.  Amazing, right?


Mainspring children get breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack during the school day. Often, these are the only healthful meals in their day; so many of our families struggle with constant food insecurity.


Amplify Austin is around the corner, and this year we're using the proceeds to benefit our Food Program. 



You can feed disadvantaged children healthful meals during the school day by contributing through Amplify Austin. Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar by the Carl C. Anderson and Marie Jo Anderson Foundation, up to $5,000. Pre-schedule your donation today!



Meet Mandy!

Meet Mandy Brooks. As Anthony moves on from Mainspring as the Managing Director, Mandy steps in to keep it all going. Anthony’s last day with us will be Wednesday, April 15th. Until then, you can find Mandy around the school getting to know everything and everyone. Feel free to stop in and say hello. Here’s a little bit about Mandy.

Mandy Brooks is a first generation Texan – born and raised in Dallas and then moved to Austin in 2001 to attend the University of Texas at Austin. In 2005, she received a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Advertising in addition to certification in UT’s Business Foundation Program. She comes to us after a nine year stint as BookPeople’s Director of Marketing and Events.  In her spare time Mandy enjoys reading, playing softball, seeing live theater, and cooking for friends and family. She’s also a lifetime fan of the Texas Longhorns and an avid animal lover. Most exciting to her about Mainspring Schools is working in such a positive and creative environment with great kids and passionate educators.


Spring is in the air

Spring means a lot at Mainspring. From special outdoor activities to our units on planting and growing to the plethora of volunteer groups, it’s the perfect time of year for a rejuvenation. While this winter wasn’t particularly harsh for us, compared to our Northeastern friends, we must celebrate the better weather and new life that comes with it.

For the past couple weeks, classes have been talking about the different parts of plants, how they grow and what they do for us. Putting their learning into action, our raised garden beds are full with seeds and starter plants just waiting for little hands to come water them. Just this morning the last of sunflower seeds were planted by the Shining Stars

Keep tuned to Facebook for updates on the beds and the beautiful life they will surely produce!

Up for a Trade? A Cup of Joe for a Day of Meals…

cup o joe.jpg

Did you know that the price you pay for one cup of coffee from your local coffee shop could provide three healthy meals for a Mainsprings kid?!

Here at Mainspring Schools we have a different approach to our program. We not only provide top quality early education to our students , we also focus on our parenting program to help our parents with home and job skills. We also provide farm to table fresh meals for our kiddos every meal, every day! We teach our kids early the importance of healthy eating. We encourage you to come visit us during lunch to see and feel the importance of these healthy meals. It makes your heart smile to see a 3-year old pile his plate full of salad and fresh fruit.

Would you be up to forgoing a cup of coffee to help us feed farm fresh meals to children who really need it? I know I’m up for it! 

Join us in our mission to provide every student three healthy meals each day. Schedule your Amplify Austin donation today!


What do you want to be when you grow up?

Its the timeless question that gets asked of children generation after generation, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" At every stage of childhood, the answer changes or at least the reasoning behind the decision does. While our hope at Mainspring is that children learn about the various possibilities of community jobs and opportunities out there for them, we mostly strive to educate children on the importance of being a good human being... a kind, compassionate, fair, humane person. 

This subject recently came up because the school-wide unit on Community Workers and Places is in full swing. As an exercise, Ms. Marisa led the Shining Stars through a writing practice asking them to think about and complete this very question. For some, the expected Fireman, Police Office and Singer  answers surfaced. For a few though, it was surprising how thoughtful and insightful these 4 and 5 years olds could be. For one in particular shown here, the answer is what spurred this posting. It's in these moments that as an organization you realize that what you are doing is good and purposeful. Because of the loving and consistent relationship this student has built with Ms. MJ, he wants to be a Teacher... and in our book, there couldn't be a more nobler choice of profession!

Amplify Mainspring! Help us Get $5K in Matching Funds

We are excitedly gearing up for the big day of giving in our lovely Austin, TX! Amplify Austin will occur on March 5th & 6th, 2015 and is set to raise a whopping $7 MILLION for local non-profits! The Anderson Foundation has generously agreed to provide FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS in matching funds in support of our Food Program!! We ask you to team up with us to help us get these matching funds. 75 percent of the kiddos that attend our school are living below the current poverty level. That means that most healthful meals are eaten while they are at school. It is our mission to provide our kids with farm to table meals every day they are with us. Learn more about our wonderful program here.


Schedule your donation today! Help us hit our goal to receive $5k in matching funds!

Become a Luncheon Sponsor


Mainspring Schools will host its annual Speaker Series Fundraising Luncheon on Thursday, April 16th, 2015. This wonderful event will take place in the beautiful Glass Oaks Ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel here in Austin. Dr. Casey Call from the TCU Institute of Child Development will speak about an emerging trust-based model for a wide range of childhood behaviors that Mainspring has used with great success.To ensure every dollar raised at the event goes directly to programming at Mainspring, we are looking for generous individuals and business to underwrite the event.

To ensure every dollar raised at the event goes directly to Mainspring programming, we are seeking generous individuals and businesses to help underwrite the event.  Benefits of sponsorship are listed below.  Please consider sponsoring so that you can join 300 other community leaders and show your support of quality early education for disadvantaged children in our community.

Sponsorship Levels

$10000 - Valedictorian

  • 2 tables of 10 with prominent placement
  • Event signage and special mention at the event
  • Listing in event program and materials

$5000 - Salutatorian

  • 1 table of 10 with prominent placement
  • Event Signage and special mention at the event
  • Listing in event program materials

$3000 - Class President

  • 8 luncheon tickets
  • Event signage and special mention at the event
  • Listing in program and materials

$1500 - Straight A’s

  • 4 luncheon tickets
  • Signage at event
  • Listing in program and materials

$500 - Honor Roll

  • 2 luncheon tickets
  • Signage at event
  • Listing in program and materials

$200 - Teacher’s Helper

  • 1 seat + 1 seat for Mainspring Teacher
  • Listing in event program

Mainspring Schools seeking Marketing and PR Intern

Job Description Position: Marketing & PR Intern

teacher with group of kids10-20 hours/week

Mainspring Schools is Austin’s premier nonprofit early childhood education center for economically disadvantaged children. 87% of children brought up in Austin’s low-income neighborhoods will enter kindergarten behind readiness levels, and when children start kindergarten behind, they are likely to stay behind for the rest of their lives.

Mainspring Schools eliminates the early childhood education gap and empowers families. 95% of our graduates start kindergarten at or above the State of Texas Pre-K readiness level & on par with their advantaged peers. Our model is based on a loving & individualized learning environment that systematically prepares the child and parents for success in school & life.

Mainspring Schools is seeking a dynamic and creative Marketing & PR Intern with outstanding communications skills who, through Marketing and promotions, wants to make a difference in the lives of Austin’s children in need.

We are committed to providing back to the ideal candidate through mentorship by our Board members - employees of Google, Humana, Innography and Excelleration Partners.


  • Manage and grow Mainspring Schools’ social media presence on Facebook and Instagram (photograph classroom activities, write posts, promote pages)
  • Write and format monthly email marketing communications; track performance
  • Help strategize the communication plan for our new “Adopt a Child” fundraising initiative
  • Find and pursue opportunities for media mentions in local news & blogs
  • Update website weekly and as needed

Minimum Qualifications

  • Love, compassion and patience with children (must also pass background check)
  • Self-motivated, good organizational skills, ability to prioritize and meet deadlines
  • Proficiency with basic technology & social media platforms
  • Exceptional interpersonal and writing communications skills

Preferred Qualifications

  • Graphic design skills including Photoshop photo editing and creation of marketing materials (mailers, web graphics)
  • Experience writing and distributing press releases, social media posts and email marketing messages (Constant Contact)
  • Experience performing Wordpress website updates
  • Creative and DIY approach to building community awareness for a small but growing nonprofit school

If interested, contact Anthony - for more details.

What do the parents say?

Once a month, Mainspring hosts a Parent Supper. At the most recent, parents were the teachers! Groups worked together to answer 4 Questions and then took turns reading their responses to the entire room. It was wonderful evening; parents were really engaged and shared some great advice. Here’s what they came up with: List Some Parenting Tips You’ve Learned at Mainspring • Make sure physical needs are met. (Hunger, sleep) • Read! Read! • Every moment is a teachable moment…to teach them teamwork, responsibility, language • Get down to their eye level when talking to them • Important to have a consistent routine so they know what to expect. • Build in some “Mommy Time” to keep your sanity. Teach your kids some self-directed activities • Keep your kids active! • Ignore what you can ignore • Pick your battles • Teach them to take one “Thank You Bite” at dinner…as thanks to the cook. • Increase their activity to get them to sleep easier • Give them freedom to choose; use more positive discipline • Every child is different and needs to be treated accordingly • Patience is key! • Learned to understand physical needs (and how they affect behavior)

What Have You Learned About Food / Health / Sleep / Exercise? • All tied together: More activity → More Healthy Food → More Sleep • Serving sizes are much smaller than we realized • There are resources available to help parents • Turn the TV off one hour before bedtime / white noise while sleeping / keep room cool • Get them exercise spread throughout the day • Relation of screen time to sleep • Self-soothing; taking a break • Idea of going shopping together and cooking together. • Pick your battle with food…don’t force • Work out when the kids are playing (so you have extra energy later, too) • Get at least 8 hours of sleep…more for kids. • The brain develops during sleep • The sleep schedule is key. Don’t wait until they show they are tired; it’s too late. • Present healthy food as the meal, but not too many options. They will eat what is presented, but they’ll also seek choices, which may lead them astray.

What Do You Wish Were Different About Mainspring? • The parking. (Unanimous!) • Open later…traffic is hard to get through (3 comments) • Have a “date night” for parents. (One parent jokingly asked if dates were provided!) • Use “date nights” as a way to raise funds • Change the sand on the playground to coconut husks • Wish we had a crossing guard / parking attendant • Miss the Child Inc partnership • More guest speakers at Parent Supper • Wish every parent came to PAC and took advantage of the parent support

What Do You Love About Mainspring? • Teachers are amazing • Learning techniques are on the children’s level • Environment: You can reach out to the parents • How the children are introduced to healthy eating • The many volunteers • Teachers • Curriculum • Community • Support Staff • Food • Individual attention

- Rudi Andrus, Executive Director

Summer breeze

summer1 Summer is in full swing and we just recently had our first day over 100°, but things have been heating up all summer here at Mainspring! We had a blast watching USA explode to the round of 16. They may have lost in Brazil but not in the Shining Stars classroom. They re-created the game to ensure a US victory. In fact they went all the way to bring home the trophy!



The Dewdrops have been staying fresh by breaking into the dance world with Creative Movement.  They’ve been enjoying learning about new sounds and instruments while learning how to use their bodies for art and music!



The Shining Stars, Mockingbirds and Songbirds took a field trip to the Thinkery as they continue to learn about astronomy, simple machines and the wonders of the world!




The impossible happened, as James Cameron predicted in Terminator, when robots took over the Songbird classroom! Fortunately for us they are very cute robots with great dance moves.

Another cutting-edge resource for Mainspring

If you noticed, Jennifer, Chloe and Sam have each been in training for a week with the incredible Dr. Karyn Purvis, her colleagues from the Institute of Child Development at TCU, and about 200 other child welfare professionals from TravisCounty. That’s because Mainspring is participating in a new program called the Travis County Collaborative for Children. This project (just begun) has the goal of improving care and outcomes for children in the foster care system in TravisCounty. This can be accomplished by putting every person that touches a child’s life (from the foster parent, the caseworker, the lawyer, the CASA, the therapist, the teachers etc.) through a trauma informed care training called Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). TBRI is an emerging intervention model for a wide range of childhood behavioral problems.

The TBRI principles are simple, but profound. The foundational idea is that relationship-based trauma can only be resolved through loving, stable relationships, such as can be offered by nurturing caregivers. By using the connecting, empowering and connecting principles taught in TBRI at Mainspring we are able to teach children new and improved coping and self-regulation skills.

We hope that by joining the Travis County Collaborative for Children Mainspring can become part of the healing process for families and children involved in the child welfare system.

A story about a sidewalk

Have you seen the new sidewalk…or the Counting Caterpillar on the Dewdrop playground? DSCN0981

If you haven’t, be sure to check them out. These works of beauty were brought to us by the generous folks from Parchment.

On Tuesday, we had close to 40 Parchment volunteers roaring to go! In a mere 3 hours, this group was able to accomplish an astounding amount of work. Everyone can see the newly installed pea gravel walkway that will lead families from one building to the next and is complete with the custom mosaic stepping stones made then as well. Inside, hands were busy creating professional artist portfolios for all of the wonderful Wee Little Arts work from the Fall semester.

All hands on deck for the mosaics!

Big thanks to United Way Greater Austin for connecting us with this amazing group to complete projects that would have otherwise been impossible for us to tackle alone.

Bookspring / RIF Day 2013

Grasshoppers enjoy a good book under the fort in celebration of RIF day. Today was Reading Is Fundamental day at Mainspring! Twice a year Bookspring/RIF provide a rich reading experiences and brand new books to underserved children all over Austin, including those here at Mainspring. Books aren’t just about reading and enjoyment, they have the power to help children make sense of the world around them and to push at the corners of that world to make it as wide open as possible.

Our theme for today was Books At Bedtime so one class at a time Mainspring children, dressed in pajamas, packed into our blanket fort to hear a story read by a volunteer and to talk about their own bedtime routines. Afterwards they were led to a shelf (stocked by Booksping) that was packed with brand new, high quality books and told they could pick one to keep. After making their selection a volunteer wrote their name on a Bookspring/RIF bookplate.

All morning I’ve been hearing children “read” their names written in their books, or ask teachers to read their book to them. I saw Shining Stars showing each other the pictures in their book and improvising a plot line to go along with them. I saw Sunflowers sitting in laps, reaching out to touch the pages of brand new board books.  I saw the joy that a book and a story can bring to even the smallest child and I was reminded why the work we do at Mainspring is so important. Because what I really saw was a school full of children being given two of the best things we can offer them: a book and the lifelong love of reading.

- Rudi Andrus, Executive Director

Fairy tales and mentors

Mainspring has taken on another wonderful opportunity, this time in partnership with St. DominicIMG_0816 Savio High School. This school requires its students to acquire 15 hours of community service per year. More specifically, it charges these students with finding high-need, direct involvement opportunities. Mainspring is lucky enough to have been asked to be a part of this as an organization. Last week, about 12 Savio students (Mentors) visited our 3 and 4 year olds to complete a few hours of fun and service. While here, the Mentors helped guide our Songbirds and Shining Stars through creating a fairy tale of their own. The most recent theme in the classes had been focused around fairy tales and so it was only appropriate as a culminated project, they get to map out, design and bind their own book!

The experience with everyone working together was one that I know our kiddos won’t forget and we hope the older kids got something out of it too! We are already making plans for a visit in the early spring!

Pumpkin Time

If you were ever wondering how many different ways you can use a pumpkin in an IMG_0249educational setting, the past couple weeks at Mainspring could give you an idea; the highlight of all of these being the culmination of making a Jack O’ Lantern. Using such a universally iconic representation of the season, our teachers did a wonderful job incorporating pumpkins in to their recent lesson plans. Here are some of the ways pumpkins were used in the different classrooms

  •  Dewdrops dipped whole small pumpkins in paint then rolled them across long sheets of paper to see what shapes they make.
  • Honeybees talked about different colored gourds then made their own using varying colors of tissue paper.
  • Songbirds spent time scooping out seeds and chronicling the feel, smell and taste after they baked them.
  • Shining Stars took to clay and sculpted and painted their own, exemplifying that each pumpkin is different and unique

IMG_0242Pumpkins are a fun, natural way of exploring the world around us while connecting to core curriculum components each class teaches. Plus, it’s a whole lot of fun!