Teacher Appreciation may have been a few weeks ago, but the celebration isn’t over yet. This year we’re honoring the seven KinderCare Education employees have reached 40 years or more with the company. Today we continue our series honoring the educators around our company who have inspired generations of learners with a look at Kathy Owens, the center director at the Telegraph Road KinderCare Learning Center in Alexandria, Va. Owens celebrated her 41st anniversary with KinderCare in January. Owens isn’t the only long-term employee at her center. Prekindergarten teacher (and Owens’ mother) Betty Wheeler celebrated her 42nd anniversary with KinderCare in January.
What brought you to KinderCare?
My family owned this center and I stayed on after it was sold. My dad built it and I started working here after school while I was still in high school. I went away for a while but came back. It’s a family business.
Why do you like working with children?
I love working with the children and families because it is very rewarding to see what a difference a strong, curriculum-based education makes. It helps children [grow] beyond their years here [with us]. [We also] help families by providing quality childcare; they become my family.
Looking back over the 41 years of your KinderCare career, what’s a favorite moment of yours?
When a parent, who came here as a two-year-old, returned 28 years later with their own two-year-old. That spoke a lot to what my parents strove for when they started this center; that we’re more than a babysitter, we’re helping to raise a child. It’s pretty remarkable that a parent came back after 28 years and still remembered things from her time here…that speaks to our community involvement and the family feeling we have here.
What keeps you coming back to work each day?
The smiles of the children!
Have any of your former students returned to visit you? How does that make you feel?
Yes, many have come by to see us; showing their accomplishments, introducing me to their wife or husband – still making us a part of their family. We have many parents who went here when they were preschoolers. What a pleasure to see them return!
What’s changed in the early childhood education field since you began your career here?
Probably the strength of the foundation allowed for children – my parents set this center up as a learning establishment. Then we were bought by Children’s World and it was all about Piaget [child development philosophy]. KinderCare goes back to the strong foundation for learning. Our curriculum is based on activities that set the foundation for good learning. It allows children to grow at their own speed. I rave to all of my tours about the strength of our program to prepare kids for kindergarten.
Parents see what their children learn in a short time. They see the learning atmosphere we have here, the small classes.
I admire Elanna [Yalow, KinderCare Education’s CEO of Early Learning Programs] because she sees beyond what we’re doing now to where we need to go to with the education of children. I think that drives our company in a different direction. That awareness of what children need puts us above the other curriculums out there.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Live your life as if today is your last.
What advice would you give your younger self on your first day at KinderCare?
To always keep an open mind when faced with adversity.