Living Our Witness

You were a cast member for Disney? What was that like?

It was amazing. I was fortunate enough to get invited to the internship. After that, I auditioned for some (character performer) openings that they had. (While) at Disney, I had a lot of interactions with the younger kids because they’re the ones that care about the character performers a little bit more so than older ones. Some of the interactions just made me (realize that) when I decided to move back to Wisconsin, working with young kids is what I want to do.

What is it about early childhood education that excites you?

The biggest thing about it is watching how much they learn and grow throughout the school year. When they are little like this, they are learning new things every minute of every day. They are like sponges. My favorite thing is when they grasp something that maybe we’ve been working on for a while. My biggest “oh my goodness” moment this year was over Christmas. They started the holiday season by talking about presents and Santa Claus, all the things kids associate with Christmas. I worked hard to teach them about Jesus being born, and by the time we got to our final reflection before Christmas break, I said, “Hey guys, what’s Christmas all about?” Not one of them brought up Santa, and not one of them brought up presents. All they did was talk about baby Jesus and how he was born. They remembered the shepherds and the star and being in the manger. I have moments like that all the time with this age group. I almost cried at that moment — I was so proud of them.

What made you decide to join the Catholic East community? What do you love most about it?

Initially, I desired to get back into a classroom (from an administrative position) after the pandemic. The pandemic just was a game changer as far as being an administrator in a school. I just lost my joy and wanted to return to a classroom. I applied at Catholic East because of the faith aspect of it. My husband and I had gotten back into our faith throughout our marriage, and it was something that I had been driving to do, and I wasn’t sure how to do it within my role. (When) this opening popped up, I said, “I could go back to a classroom and live my faith through my vocation.” I could do all of the things that I wanted to do in this one place.

Has it been what you hoped for?

This is just everything I imagined it to be and more. It’s just wonderful. I don’t think I could find this type of community anywhere. I just haven’t found it anywhere else. Even working at Disney.

How do you build confidence in your students?

The biggest thing is positive praise. Celebrating those little things because every child is different, so celebrating personal milestones for them. I had a lot of kids who started my year, their year like that, where this was their first time away from Mom and Dad, and it was terrifying. Just celebrating every small win, whether it be, you know, at naptime they went to bed all by themselves (is key).

Little kids often have big emotions. How do you help them through the more challenging days?

When they come in, they might feel a little sad, and I’ll say, “Hey, I know you’re feeling sad, but we’re not gonna let that ruin our day.” And they agree.  I help them navigate their feelings and their emotions. The biggest thing is getting on their level and listening. I think many people forget — they’re 3, but they’re people and want to feel seen. They hurt just as much as we do as adults. So, when they’re having a moment and need to talk, being on their level and saying, “I’m here; I’m listening. What’s going on? Let’s talk about it.” Then I push my kids’ faith as well. Whenever they have a bad moment, I say, “Hey, I’m sorry you’re feeling that way. Let’s go talk to Jesus about it.” I have a little prayer table and a play phone that they’ll call Jesus on.