2013 Early Childhood Educator Award Winner Joy Semelka

Joy Semelka, a 2013 KU Early Childhood Educator Award winner with two of her Prekindergarten students at the Sylvania, Ohio, KinderCare.

Joy Semelka, a 2013 KU Early Childhood Educator Award winner with two of her Prekindergarten students at the Sylvania, Ohio, KinderCare.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for Knowledge Universe

I feel like we’re able to help each other. They fulfill something in me…but I hope that they get from me a wisdom about the world and that they’re just successful people. That’s my goal for them –just not to succeed in the classroom but to succeed in life.
Joy Semelka, Prekindergarten teacher and 2013 Knowledge Universe® Early Childhood Educator Award recipient

There are some classrooms that exude a magnetic pull and make even the most casual observer want to join in the activities. Joy Semelka’s Prekindergarten classroom at the Sylvania KinderCare® Learning Center in Sylvania, Ohio is one of those rooms.

“I‘ve always said that with Joy, from the minute she walks in our door to the minute she leaves in the afternoon, she’s teaching,” said Center Director Kristie Mundt. “She’s the epitome of an early childhood educator. It is her passion and you see it every day. Every minute is teachable. Her entire classroom is stacked with learning materials; pencils, pens, crayons, markers. Every area of her room is purposeful. Her children are never bored. They’re always interested, always engaged, always stimulated by what she’s saying and what she’s doing.”

Kristie speaks as Joy’s manager and also from her own family’s experience. Her daughter was a student in Joy’s class and even though she’s moved on to public school, she still talks about Ms. Joy.

Joy is a consummate early childhood educator who takes advantage of “teachable moments.” Her enthusiasm, energy, and ability to keep a room of lively four- and five-year-olds engaged in purposeful learning every moment of every day earned Joy the 2013 Knowledge Universe Early Childhood Educator Award. While Joy was overwhelmed by the honor, she was quick to emphasize that she’s still learning and growing herself, alongside her students.

“I just feel like [Prekindergarten is] a really important stage in their life,” she said. “You have this short window of opportunity to expose them to as much as you can and to help develop who they’re going to become. I think this is a really pivotal age.”

“I’m always trying to learn new things. I feel like when you get to that point where you think you know everything, it’s time to move on and do something else, so I think as a teacher you have to continue to learn and grow.”

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