Taking a child to daycare is one of the most difficult daily tasks for a working parent.
Caroline Harada, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, experiences the remorse every day when she drops her child off at the UAB Child Development Center. “As a full-time physician, I often feel very guilty about leaving my child with others all day long,” Harada says.
But Harada feels fortunate knowing her son is in the care of Susie White, the Waddlers child-care teacher at the center.
“My son is always happy to be there,” Harada says. “This make a tremendous difference to me. It is a great comfort to me to know my son is happy in Miss Susie’s care, and that he is stimulated with new challenges and activities that she designs and coordinates.”
Parents and co-workers praise White’s patience, organization and loving attitude as key traits that make her worthy of May’s Employee of the Month honor.
White has been a teacher at the Child Development Center for 10 years. She cares for children ages 6 to 18 months, and White says she wouldn’t want to do anything else.
“I love my babies,” she says, “and I love what I do. The most rewarding thing is seeing the smiles on their faces. It means so much to me to see that every day.”
Lauren Ritchie, web content coordinator in IT Support Services, takes her daughter to the center. Ritchie says she knows White’s job can be difficult, but says she displays grace and enthusiasm toward the children every day.
“I can’t imagine having anyone else there for my child,” Ritchie says. “My heart melts in the mornings when I walk into the room holding my baby and she reaches for Miss Susie to take her. I know solely from this interaction that she loves my child just as she would her own.”
White is the mother of two, 24-year-old Darryl and 12-year-old Eric. She understands the apprehension parents have when they must entrust their child’s care with someone else.
White says she does her best to reassure her parents that their children will be healthy, safe and happy while they are in her care.
“From day one, when I speak to my parents, I tell them their kids are my kids when they’re here,” White says. “I treat them just like they’re my own. Me telling them that and showing them that makes a big difference.”
Kristi Chambers, director of the Child Development Center, says White has developed outstanding relationships with the parents of the children in her classroom.
Chambers says White works with parents to meet their needs and honor their preferences, puts first-time parents at ease by helping them better understand the states of development their children are experiencing and eases them through the transition from home to school, respecting the need for proper morning goodbyes.
White also communicates with parents daily about each child through conversations and written reports, which Chambers says fosters continuity between school and home.
White is more than a caretaker, however; she is an educator committed to the development of the children in her care by providing them with a variety of daily experiences.
“Susie often is sitting on the floor reading to the babies, talking to them about their experiences or singing a song with them,” Chambers says. “She also takes the babies outside daily and has even taught them to use baby sign language.
“Giving the babies the tools to make their wishes known reduces their own frustration, which makes the classroom a happy place to be for everyone.”
White is proud of how much the babies have learned this year.
“My babies know all of their body parts and the different parts of animals,” she says. “They can show you the tusk on an elephant. One of them is saying all of the other children’s names, and she can tell you all of the teacher’s names. I love to watch them grow, and it’s my responsibility to make sure they’re getting the development opportunities and education they need.”
In addition to her teaching and nurturer-in-chief duties, White supervises several full- and part-time assistant teachers. She ensures they are professional, vigilant and happy.
Child-care teacher Cicely Washington says White is a role model for teachers at the center.
“Miss Susie has taught me things that I could only learn through experience,” Washington says. “There are still many things that I must learn, and I’m thankful to have her here for help and guidance.”
Chris Kyle, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of History and Anthropology, has a son in White’s classroom. He has watched his son learn how to communicate his needs under White’s teaching and knows the nurturing she provides is comforting to the children.
“She goes about her work with seemingly effortless grace, a calm rock of stability in an environment that is everything but calm,” Kyle says. “To a naïve witness, she makes the job look easy. To those of us who know better, she is a virtual miracle worker. As a parent, I know how difficult it is to maintain this level of engagement and good cheer even for a few hours, much less for a full day. But Susie and the teachers in her classroom do it day in and day out. I can think of few jobs at UAB that are as challenging and even fewer that have an impact as deep and profound as the one she has on the students in her classroom.”