In a way, the timing was perfect for First Christian Church officials to fulfill a need in their community.
The COVID pandemic had killed the decades-old Mother’s Day Out child care program freeing needed classroom space, and a highly qualified parishioner retired after 36 years of teaching.
“They had been hinting to me about this for a while,” said Amy Anderson, executive director of the church’s new Early Childhood Center. “It kind of all came together at the same time.”
The transition from a program that offered child care three to five days a week on a drop-in basis to a full-time, five days a week took nearly a year to complete, but the result is exactly what senior minister Chris Pullium and others envisioned.
“We believe this is connected to some great ministry. That’s the need we see,” he said, “not only for child care but a great educational start in a safe setting and a place they are loved.”
For Anderson, it was a “calling on my heart.”
She earned a master’s degree in early childhood education and taught in public schools for more than three decades. But when COVID hit, teaching computer and math via distance learning took a toll.
“It was so difficult,” she said. “I was ready for a transition.”
Her workday now begins about 6:30 a.m. when she unlocks the doors, turns on the lights and prepares to personally greet all the families and children as they come through the door beginning about 30 minutes later.
If everything goes well, the teachers and children are in their designated classrooms beginning their scheduled lessons and activities, allowing Anderson to head into her office.
She works on taking payments, answering emails, returning telephone messages and taking care of last-minute details for anything special scheduled that day — like taking pictures or leading a pretend bear hunt after reading books about bears.
She helps resolve problems — arranging to replace forgotten lunches or retrieving a favorite naptime stuffed animal. She ensures medicine is appropriately dispensed and “boo-boo” reports are completed if necessary.
She helps teachers if they need more Kleenex, Clorox wipes or locating needed art supplies.
There are temperatures to be taken, teacher bathroom breaks, tours and playground and classroom safety checks. She’s also in charge of making the shopping list, interviewing potential employees, checking references and training new hires.
If a teacher calls in sick one day or there is a staff shortage, Anderson may find herself as the teacher for the day or longer.
“The only constant here is that you never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Just when you think, ‘Oh, there can’t be one more thing to do,’ then there’s one more thing for you to do.”
If everything goes well, the end of her work day comes around 3 p.m., but some days she works until 6 p.m. when the center closes. Even though she may be tired at the end of the day, she said she still loves her job and the people who make this mission a reality.
“I feel called to do this, and I just have to believe there is a higher power at work leading the right people to me and our families,” she said.
Vanessa E. Curry is a journalist with nearly 35 years of experience as a writer, editor and instructor. She earned a B.S. degree in Mass Communication from Illinois State University and a MSIS degree from The University of Texas at Tyler with emphasis on journalism, political science and criminal justice. She has worked newspaper in Marlin, Henderson, Tyler and Jacksonville, Texas as well as in Columbia Tennessee. Vanessa also was a journalism instructor at the UT-Tyler and Tennessee Tech University. Her writing has been recognized by the State Bar of Texas, Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, Dallas Press Club, and Tennessee Press Association. She currently is working on publishing two books: “Lies and Consequences: The Trials of Kerry Max Cook,” and “A Gold Medal Man, A biography of Kenneth L. “Tug” Wilson.
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