Since my 2013 retirement, after 37 years at Illinois State University, every day is a Saturday. And I love it!
I took my first ISU position in 1976, the year I graduated from Illinois State.
I was head teacher of preschool children at ISU’s Child Care Center under the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS).
With completion of my ISU master’s degree in 1980, I became the center’s director. My work involved administration and college teaching, which was the best of both worlds: The joy and wonder of children, and the enthusiasm and challenge of college students.
I was supported to excel in my teaching and professional writing, applying research and collaborating with nonprofit child and family programs. Significant was my participation in World Forum for Early Care and Education conferences. Global contact led to exciting opportunities. FCS human development undergraduate students completed internships with Childspace Early Childhood Institute in Wellington, New Zealand.
What do I miss? The constructive hum of children exploring together, the logic of children making sense of the world, and the joy of their spontaneous laughter and hugs. I miss college students’ probing questions.
I miss colleagues, especially the Child Care Center’s team teachers. We had the same team for 20 years and achieved long-term goals. We created a splendid naturalistic play yard, including a tree house.
I reside in McLean County and enjoy a slower pace now, but am still professionally engaged. In October 2017, I was inducted into the College of Applied Science and Technology Hall of Fame. I keep my textbook current, Child Care Today, and am occasionally called for consultations or presentations.
Yearly I play “Mrs. Claus” for the Town of Normal, with donations benefitting the Child Care Center. I read more novels, indulge in nature photography, birding, gardening, and keeping raccoons from eating koi in our pond. And some day, my family will explore the Cook Islands.
So where am I now? I’m following my bliss, but a piece of my heart will always remain with the ISU Child Care Center.
Karen Stephens can be reached at kstephen@IllinoisState.edu.