“I make sure all the kids are getting what they need. Families are getting what they need. If they need extra help or resources, I’m there to assist.”
At 15th Avenue North Learning Academy, Karen greets each family—each morning—by name.

She’s the academy’s assistant director and pre-K teacher. Her job is to make sure that every child that comes through her door is prepared for kindergarten.

“We do a curriculum that’s structured,” she says. “It gets them ready to take that next journey, have confidence in what they want to do and how they can do it. They have that confidence when they leave.”

Growing up, Karen always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She worked at Fannie Battle Day Home in high school with elementary-aged students. She went to school for business education but realized she wanted to get back into early education when she’d drop her kids off at Martha O’Bryan each morning.

More than 26 years later, Karen says the shift in child care has been amazing to be a part of.

“It used to be when people bought their kids to child care, it was just daycare. It felt like babysitting,” she says. “But as the times came up, they started implementing all these curriculums and the teachers are having passion on what they do and how they implement it. And knowing that these kids are going home learning every day.”

15th Avenue is a United Way partner agency and emerging Read to Succeed site. Read to Succeed is a comprehensive early childhood learning model that builds academic and social-emotional skills for children from birth through age five. Through Read to Succeed, children learn the skills they need to reach their highest potential.

And those skills go far beyond letters, shapes and numbers.

Karen and her team are giving kids the social-emotional intelligence, the confidence, the discipline to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

She remembers one family who was new to the center. At a previous center, the child had been hit in the face by an adult and dealt with a lot of anger.

His mother said the previous enter would isolate him because of his anger. And he didn’t know how to play with other children.

“I told her, ‘We’re going to work on this,’’ she recalls. “Yes, he had his moments but when he left, he was the sweetest kid ever. He learned those skills that he needed in a short amount of time. He went from being around people who left him behind, who didn’t want to be bothered … to being around people who loved him and wanted him no matter what problems he went through. With us, he could have his, ‘I’m just mad today. I’m just going to scream today.’ But at the end of the day, he always gave myself and Ms. Penny a hug no matter how much he’s done.”

Karen says the boy’s mom was nervous about him starting kindergarten. So on his first day, Karen decided to check on him and found out he was excelling.

“That was one of the success stories for me.”

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