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The Power of an Engaged Teacher

Alethia knows the impact that engaged teachers have in helping children grow.

Alethia Minzlaff has been putting smiles on the faces of young children at the Day Early Learning Lilly Family Center for two years as a teacher in the one-year-old room. Each day, Alethia comes to work and shepherds her youngest learners through a busy day of play time and reading books, of learning to socialize and beginning to learn sounds. Her experience tells her that when a teacher is patient and kind and ensures that social growth accompanies academic growth, the student will flourish. She knows first-hand the power of an engaged teacher and the important role she plays in helping children grow.

Alethia knows what to expect from young children. They repeat the sounds she makes and use simple gestures to get her attention. They copy their classmates as they play and figure out the world around them. Along with the parents, Alethia identifies the learning and growth milestones that will allow these young students to achieve future success. However, Alethia also knows that some kids take a little longer to reach important milestones.

She knows this because Alethia is not only a teacher at the Lilly Center, she is also a parent of a student who was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder at a young age.

Alethia was a stay-at-home mom when her youngest son, Miles, was born. Her older son, Ashton, was three and had progressed seamlessly through the early childhood milestones. Alethia was attending school for a degree in library science. But after staying home with her two little ones, she realized she had a passion for working with children. She was pondering a career with children around the time Miles turned one. Miles was a quiet baby and seemed to have a more difficult time with some of the tasks that Ashton did not. At Miles’ one-year-old checkup with the pediatrician, Alethia was told that kids progressed at different rates. By the time Miles was 1 ½ Alethia and her husband, Thad, realized that Miles might need some special assistance. He was nonverbal and having trouble with fine and gross motor skills. He was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.

Alethia began working at the Lilly Center and enrolled Miles and Ashton. Ashton completed pre-K and moved to kindergarten at Irvington Elementary. Thanks to Mrs. Marti at the Lilly Center, Ashton was very prepared for kindergarten. He was ahead of the game at reading and quickly picked up on math. Alethia was most impressed by his social skills. “He gets along great with everyone,” she said. “He learned how to be a friend.”

Meanwhile, Miles started in Mrs. Coombs’ room two-year-old room. She worked with him daily to improve his fine motor skills and used sign language to help him express himself. Other symptoms of Miles’ condition are lack of coordination and difficulty engaging in play. Mrs. Coombs discovered ways to help him grow both academically and socially. She encouraged jumping and playtime and helped him to engage with other students. Miles has made great improvements and continues to do so. Miles is currently in preschool with Ms. Asia and Ms. Amber. He has started talking and enjoys playtime with his friends. An occupational therapist, speech therapist, and resource teacher meet weekly or more with Miles at the Lilly Center. They coordinate with his teachers to ensure Miles is continuing to meet important developmental milestones.

“Mrs. Coombs, Ms. Asia, and Ms. Amber put in the time and effort to make sure Miles will be successful in school and in life,” said Alethia.

“They are always very patient and understanding, as it takes him a little longer to adjust to things like potty training.”

Miles is on track to start kindergarten with his peers. Ashton has successfully transitioned into elementary school and he is loving it. Alethia is working towards an associates degree in early childhood education and loves her job. Early Learning Indiana provides its teachers with funding for continuing education, as well as, paid time off to attend class and study. Not only is Day Early Learning a job for Alethia, it is a career.

“It’s so rewarding and the best part about it is that I get to be a kid with them every day.”

Alethia also knows that, just like Miles, there are many more children who would benefit from the high-quality early care that the Day Early Learning centers can provide. Early education has increasingly been moving into the community spotlight as a critical part of young children’s development and research shows it not only prepares children for life-long learning, but impacts community prosperity, high school dropout statistics and crime rates. Unfortunately, not all families can afford this crucial community need. The programs of Early Learning Indiana have forever impacted the Minzlaff family and many other families like theirs. Click here to help make a difference in the lives of Indiana’s youngest learners and donate towards scholarship assistance.

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