Sunday, April 20, 2014

Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868

7/31 MI Town: Patty Taylor Dutcher

July 30, 2013

Does anybody else remember back in the day when the first assignment of the new school year in English class was to write an essay telling what you did on your summer vacation?

In those long ago days, we usually wrote about strawberry and bean picking, where we earned money for school clothes and special items for ourselves that our families -- stretched to the limit with responsibilities -- just could not afford.

The hours we spent helping our moms make jams from berries grown in our own gardens, applesauce from the trees in the backyard and other chores seemed to take forever. Swimming with our friends in the river behind our house, lying on the float and hoping for a good sun tan was the best reward ever.

Fast forward many years spent in school, raising a family, volunteering in the communities wherever I lived and after the kids grew up and went away to college, returning to work full time as an administrative assistant in hospitals and universities before retiring and spending time traveling with my husband, Don. I enjoy home and gardening, quilting, volunteering and writing a weekly newspaper column for the Polk County Itemizer-Observer.

All of this neatly dovetailed into a pretty comfortable way of life for someone who has spent three score and ten -- and then some -- doing my best to avoid the rocks and shoals while navigating through life's sometimes murky and treacherous waters.

I was interviewed by the Oregon Child Development Coalition's Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program, and was hired as an instructional assistant in June.

Every weekday morning from 7 until 3:30 p.m. I make sure the classroom is ready for our prekindergarten children, readying the playground with a colleague, welcoming our students to the classroom, helping set up the activities for the day and seeing so many positive learning experiences. We eat breakfast, lunch and a late afternoon snack with our students -- helping with positive behavior and encouraging with eating and conversation in both English and Spanish -- so the meal is pleasant and interesting. The children cheerfully help with serving and cleanup tasks, eager to get on to another activity.

I well remember then-President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty, when Head Start programs started in July of 1965, with Sargent Shriver as the first director. I lived in the Washington, D.C., area in the 1960s and early '70s actively cheering on this great experiment in education, not knowing that one day I would actually be working with those dedicated folks who bring so much positive optimism to our communities.

My co-workers are from different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds -- experienced teachers and newly-minted educators with the ink barely dry on college diplomas, young mothers and college students, volunteers who are dedicated to doing the good works, cooks and bus drivers and all the people working hard to do whatever it takes to give children the ability to reach for opportunities denied past generations of minorities and the poor, and to help children make the transition from home to school.

I have enjoyed meeting everyone in our OCDC Independence Head Start family and look forward to the rest of the summer.

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