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What makes child care providers awesome: Parents share their appreciation

Marcela, who is 4-years-old, with her teacher, Tima, in Seattle. (Courtesy of Mariah Rosenblum)
Marcela, who is 4-years-old, with her teacher, Tima, in Seattle. (Courtesy of Mariah Rosenblum)

This week marks Teacher Appreciation Week. But preschool teachers — as well as daycare providers and nannies — don’t always get the recognition, respect or pay that K-12 educators receive.

The National Education Association reports the average public school teacher salary is about $66,000 dollars a year. Child Care Aware says educators at child care centers don’t even make half that.

To help change the stigma around this workforce being “just babysitters,” members of Here & Now’s audience who rely on child care shared their appreciation for their providers.

A common theme they expressed is that quality is a key factor when deciding who will watch their young children when they go to work.

Gratitude for Kristin Hitchcock-Alioto in Sacramento, California:

More than a decade later, Michelle Kiefer writes that she still remembers the compassion of teacher Kristin Hitchcock-Alioto in Sacramento. She says she will never forget when her youngest son, Gavin, was about 2 and she and her husband abruptly separated. Suddenly, she went from a stay-at-home mom to a full-time, single, working mom. She says Ms. Kristen made it possible financially — and emotionally — for her to leave Gavin and go to work.

“To take your baby someplace where they are safe, happy and loved is critical to a working parent’s success. In that stressful time of my life, Kristin was a consistency for us,” Kiefer says. “My son is 13 now and is still sure that Ms. Kristin loved him. I am incredibly, incredibly grateful. She is one of our many American unsung heroes providing family home child care that is critical to the success of our workforce.”

Joanne Kugler and her 5-year-old student, Hayden, in Billings, Montana. (Courtesy of Amber Parish)

Praise for Joanne Kugler in Billings, Montana: 

StoryBrook Hollow is just as magical of a preschool as it sounds in the mind of Amber Parish. Her 5-year-old son Hayden has been attending for the past three years after his previous daycare downsized due to COVID-19. Parish says they love owner Joanne Kugler, as well as Hayden’s other teachers Miss Kari and Miss Emma. Parish describes the trio as kind and caring, “but no-nonsense when they need to be.” Nothing is off limits learning-wise, she says, as the women teach Hayden about everything from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to the human body to animals of regions throughout the world.

“Every day we drop off Hayden with the knowledge he is going to be cared for, appreciated and encouraged. Can you imagine being able to go off to work for nine hours if you didn’t feel that way?” Parish says. “I have no doubt in my mind my son will have memories of StoryBook Hollow forever, and that’s because of the people who influenced him while he was most impressionable.”

Admiration for Marlena Michaud in Merrimack, New Hampshire:

Krissy Mendez says she was hesitant to transfer her 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Gianna, to a child care program closer to home so she could work remotely. But meeting Marlena Michaud at Little Sprouts in Merrimack, New Hampshire, melted any reservations she had. She recalls how invested Miss Marlena was in getting to know Gianna as an individual when she first joined her classroom — her likes and dislikes, her strengths, her challenges — and gave her extra attention as she was getting acclimated. Mendez says it meant the world to see how Miss Marlena cared, and it showed how much her years of experience in the field made a difference.

“Marlena works with toddlers who are developing their personalities at a rapid pace, navigating their independence in all their skills, asserting their independence, potty training, developing their play skills and pre-academic skills — all at once,” Mendez says. “It takes a great deal of patience, consistency, and a level of passion for what you do in order to be a strong and successful toddler teacher! I admire her love for what she does because I am comfortable and confident that my daughter is so happy and loved in my absence.”

Recognition for Tima Azami in Seattle, Washington: 

Mariah Rosenblum’s 4-year-old neighbor Marcela sent a voice memo to share, in her own words, about what makes her teacher Fatima “Tima” Azami of Seattle, Washington, special. She says she loves when Tima draws hearts and gives her hugs. The love that Marcela feels extends to the entire Rosenblum family and has led them to appreciate Tima’s deep spirituality.

“Our children know how to show so much empathy to babies and toddlers, as Tima has the children all help each other,” says Mariah Rosenblum. “She taught us parents that it is okay to trust others with our most precious little ones in a day and age where it can feel terrifying to let them out of our sight. Tima opened my eyes and heart to become more familiar with how a devout Muslim family cares for its community. She showed me the beauty of her faith and what it looks like in practice.”

Ashley Locke produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Gabe Bullard. Locke adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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