Penka Kasabova (1901-2000) is one of the founder of the modern preschool education in Bulgaria. She was born in Stara Zagora in the family of Milyo Kasabov, who had a bookstore. In 1919 she graduated from the pedagogical high school in her hometown, her father advised her to the profession of children’s teacher, which she accepted with excitement and joy. She absolved the pedagogical course at the American Kindergarten, headed by Elizabeth Clark (1868-1942). Elizabeth Clark herself was the daughter of the American missionary James Clark, and in 1900 she opened a kindergarten and a course for children’s teachers in Sofia.
In 1925 Penka Kassabova left for Chicago to continue her education at the National Kindergarten College. There she studied psychology, didactics, children’s literature, the art of storytelling, decorating and other interesting and necessary for the profession of children’s teachers, disciplines. In America for the first time she got acquainted with the design method, which she observed in various kindergartens and was extremely impressed. In 1928 Penka Kasabova graduated and became the first Bulgarian to receive a higher education in preschool education in the United States.
In the winter of the same year, she returned to Bulgaria and immediately devoted herself to the development of preschool education in Bulgaria. She became a teacher in the American Kindergarten Teachers’ Course. Together with Elizabeth Clark they expanded and supplemented the curriculum, and gradually the interest in their course began to grow, from 5-6 female students in the early 30’s, 5 years later there are already 250 candidates selected with an entrance exam. This great interest is undoubtedly the fruit to the hard work that Penka Kassabova carried out across the country – until 1935 she tirelessly visited many towns and gave speeches and lectures on topics related to the development and upbringing of the child and promoting the need of preschool education.
In 1932, Elizabeth Clark retired as director of the American Kindergarten and moved to Knezha, where she opened a local kindergarten. As her deputy in Sofia, she chose Penka Kasabova, who, although anxious, took over the director’s post, which she held until the garden was closed in 1942.
In 1932, the Friedrich Fröbel Society began publishing the pedagogical magazine ‘First Steps’, and Penka Kasabova became its editor-in-chief. It started to publish materials on various topics related to the life and education of young children. Many prominent Bulgarian artists and intellectuals have been attracted, and foreign authors have been translated and published along with them. Leda Mileva, later a famous children poet, niece of Penka Kasabova, joined the editorial board of ‘First Steps’ magazine, and her talent flourished on the pages of the magazine.
In 1939 Penka Kasabova, together with other prominent Bulgarian public figures, established a foundation for preschool education. The foundation was established on the initiative and with the financial support of Elizabeth Clark
In 1944 Penka Kasabova became chief inspector of preschool education. In this position she faced many challenges and with her inherent passion and rich experience worked hard until 1948. She was critical to the implementation of the Soviet educational methods in the preschool education and was removed from her position. Graduated in America, she was unsuitable for the introduction of the Soviet model. She left her memoirs ‘Sketches on the path of life’ which were published after her death.
Penka Kasabova, Sketches on the path of life, Sofia, 2001
Nadezhda Milenkova, Pedagogical views of Penka Kasabova (1901-2000), Blagoevgrad 2021.