This year, seven employees will celebrate 40 years or more with KinderCare Education. Today we continue our series
honoring the educators around our company who have inspired generations of learners with a look at Betty Wheeler, a prekindergarten teacher at the Telegraph Road KinderCare Learning Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Wheeler celebrated her 42nd anniversary with KinderCare in January.
What brought you to KinderCare?
I owned the center at one time and have remained at the same center.
Nearly 50 years ago Wheeler and her husband, a minister, opened their first childcare center in their church. As the demand grew, they branched out, building more centers in the community. Wheeler ran the Telegraph Road center. When KinderCare bought the center in 1974 she stayed on.
Why do you like working with prekindergarten students?
They are challenging! And to see them begin reading – their faces are priceless.
Wheeler’s creative curriculum enrichments are legendary. For example, when teaching sight words, she assigns each child a word and has them wear the word as a necklace. Throughout the day students refer to each other by their sight words instead of by their names.
Looking back over the 42 years of your KinderCare career, what’s a favorite moment of yours?
Seeing children I’ve taught come back to visit with memories to share.
One student moved to Hawaii but when he returns to the area to visit he makes sure to stop by his old center on Telegraph Road to see Wheeler.
What keeps you coming back to work each day?
The children [and their] families, and seeing returning parents now – who I once taught.
Have any of your former students returned to visit you? How does that make you feel?
Yes, many. It makes me feel great to see them doing well.
What’s changed in the early childhood education field since you began your career here?
The idea of curriculum – children are smarter.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Children don’t wait – be prepared.
What advice would you give your younger self on your first day at KinderCare?
Be strong and flexible – always follow through.