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Longtime teaching team driven by passion for children

Teachers Jennifer Addleman, left, and Samantha Sisk work with toddlers in their class at the Camp... Teachers Jennifer Addleman, left, and Samantha Sisk work with toddlers in their class at the Campus View Child Care Center at IU Bloomington. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana UniversityJennifer Addleman and Samantha Sisk are so devoted to their students and early childhood education that they’ve taught together for 17 years at Indiana University Bloomington.

They’re not instructing education majors to be elementary school teachers, though. Addleman and Sisk are helping infants and toddlers — the children of IU faculty, staff and students — develop skills that will help them succeed as they grow, with the goal of inspiring lifelong learners.

They care for and teach children, age 6 weeks to 3 years, at Campus View Child Care Center, one of the three licensed and nationally accredited child care centers IU offers as part of its early childhood education services. The teachers, who also are close friends, use a continuity of care model in which they remain with the same group of children from infancy through the preschool years, and teach based on each child’s emerging interests and abilities.

Their longevity at Campus View and in a field that is struggling to attract and retain employees is remarkable, but Sisk and Addleman said that commitment is rooted in a love for what they do.

“Children have always been my passion,” said Sisk, 49, who has worked at Campus View since 2003 and later earned a master’s degree in early childhood education from IU.

“Development is certainly the most attractive piece of it to me,” said Addleman, 44, who joined Campus View in 2005 and is working on a master’s in early childhood education at IU.

Toddlers use a combination of paint and glue to cover a set of pumpkins. Photo by James Brosher, ... Toddlers use a combination of paint and glue to cover a set of pumpkins. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana UniversityAddleman said the 0-3 age group is exciting because of the brain development. She loves to see a child who is initially dependent on an adult grow and gain skills and knowledge, and develop interests and independence.

Their classroom is a haven for growing and learning. Pictures of animals and the children’s art projects adorn the walls. Books fill multiple shelves. Writing and learning materials are thoughtfully arranged throughout the room. Photos of the children are found throughout the classroom: on their cubbies and individual journals, in family photo collages and a book in progress documenting past activities. Two wooden lofts offer opportunities for climbing and exploring. Plants and flowers grow around the room.

On a Wednesday morning in early October, the children were invited to paint pumpkins with a sticky mixture of paint and glue. It served as a follow-up to drip painting projects offered on previous days.

“The kids invested so much time with this painting process, we decided to extend it by inviting them to do drip art on pumpkins,” Sisk said.

At several child-sized tables, 10 children squeezed plastic bottles filled with the paint and glue mixture. Once-orange pumpkins suddenly looked more like rainbows: blue, pink, yellow, purple and white.

Some of the children excitedly told the teachers what they were doing. Then, as the children emptied their bottles, they walked to a sink and asked Addleman for refills, telling her what color they wanted.

Later, as the project neared completion, a child asked Addleman where another purple bottle was. Kindly, another child stepped over and handed them a bottle with more purple paint.

With the assistance of some toddlers, Sisk cleans up after a classroom art project involving pain... With the assistance of some toddlers, Sisk cleans up after a classroom art project involving paint, glue and pumpkins. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

“Everything we do offers opportunity for independent exploration and skill development,” Addleman said.

“All of these opportunities build skills,” Sisk added, whether that’s squeezing bottles or holding and using scissors.

The activities also foster communication and cooperation. Even their role in cleaning up after painting pumpkins had a purpose.

Each child was given a wet cloth to wipe down the tables. Some felt motivated to clean materials in storage bins around the room.

“That was good cleaning!” one child declared.

“Toddlers by nature love jobs,” Addleman said. “They feel ownership of and responsibility for the classroom. It provides them with a sense of empowerment.”

After cleaning up, the children gathered around Addleman for stories and songs while Sisk began assembling the lunches prepared by IU Dining: grilled cheese squares, broccoli, Mandarin oranges and milk.

The ease with which they work together and divide tasks not only reflects rapport built over 17 years teaching together, but also a closeness that continues beyond the classroom.

“We are family outside of work,” Sisk said.

They’ve known each other for a long time. Addleman was the child care teacher for Sisk’s son, who is now 21, when he was a toddler. So, she was thrilled to have Addleman join her at Campus View. Their families, which include two children each, get together frequently.

There are other reasons they have enjoyed working at Campus View for so long. Both said they feel great support from IU for what they do, and they love the relationships they build with the children and their families.

Addleman reads The Day the Babies Crawled Away to an attentive group. Photo by James Brosher, I... Addleman reads “The Day the Babies Crawled Away” to an attentive group. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana UniversityAddleman and Sisk said some parents have timed their pregnancies so that after they have cycled through with one of their children, they will start over with the next one. In some cases, they’ve taught three children from the same family.

“As a team, they really know the children they work with,” said Linda Fields, Campus View’s director. She said Sisk and Addleman work together to put teaching strategies in place that best support individual children and the group as a whole.

Fields said that having a longtime teaching team is a great benefit to the program considering the national trend of child care centers struggling to keep employees, but so is having a veteran staff as a whole. She calculated the teaching staff’s total years of teaching at Campus View at 76.

“The role of an early childhood educator requires a commitment to continuous learning and the ability to seek ways to support the needs of young children through a developmentally appropriate lens,” Fields said. “I feel very fortunate to work with the highly qualified, creative and professional teaching teams we have at Campus View Child Care Center.”

Kirk Johannesen is a communications consultant for the Office of the Vice President for Communications and Marketing.