By Pam Robinson
To be home for Christmas carries special meaning for Jamie (Johnson) Stevens, the new director of the Children’s Learning Center, or CLC, located at 2100 W. Fourth Street in Mount Vernon. Stevens stepped up to the job on December 3. Her previous work experience includes a total of four and a half years at CLC, accumulated at different times in different positions. As a result, Stevens says, “I’ve always come back here. I feel at home here.”
A student at USI, Stevens only needs two classes and student teaching to complete a degree in elementary education. Her new job at CLC doesn’t accommodate student teaching. Even it if did, however, Stevens is happy to switch to a general studies major and complete her degree in May 2013.
“When I was studying elementary education, I never felt that’s who I was,” she explains. “I like daycare because I can grow up with the children and their families. When children come here as an infant and stay until age 12, I am part of their entire childhood. That’s special.”
The Posey County native started at CLC when she 19 years old as a caregiver in the infant classroom. At the same time, she worked with senior citizens in assisted living at Solarbron on the weekends. A year later, she and U.S. Navy shipmate Derek Stevens were married, and the couple immediately moved to Virginia. When Derek was deployed overseas a couple of years later, Stevens moved back to Posey County with their 2-year-old son, Connor. Once again, she worked at CLC as receptionist until Derek fulfilled his four-year commitment to the Navy and moved back to Posey County permanently. When the couple was expecting their second child, Stevens resigned from CLC to stay home with their daughter, Jacelyn.
“I’ve always loved it here,” the new director says as she starts her third—and last—tour of duty at CLC. “I adore the staff and have a good relationship with everyone. I’ve just really found my place in life and my career.”
Stevens seems perfect for the position, not only because of her background in elementary education, but also because of her lifestyle. Now 4 years old, Jacelyn comes to CLC with mom and heads for the 3- and 4-year-old classroom while Connor, now 7 years old, attends first grade at West Elementary. Her husband Derek works full-time as a lock operator at J.T. Myers Locks & Dam. Her new job allows her to remain close to and to support her immediate family as well as both sets of grandparents to the children, Jeff and Chris Johnson and Norm and Melinda Stevens, themselves all Posey County natives.
Her love for CLC is evident in her praise of all her staff members. She appreciates the “lifers” for lending their education and experience to CLC ever since its start-up 16 years ago—assistant director Yvonne Lawrence and teachers Leah Hamblin and Alyson Moudy. She’s grateful for their assistance now. Even more, she believes her entire staff is dedicated to the education of young children.
Stevens’ goals include maintaining the quality programs and events already at CLC. She points, for example, to the three events going on in the month of December: 1) the after-school class’s canned food drive for At the Cross Mission in Mount Vernon; 2) the annual Angel Tree that helps families at CLC who need a little Christmas; and 3) Santa Claus’s annual visit to CLC to have a picture taken with each child.
Her main ambition is to move from Level 2 to Level 3 in the 4-C of Indiana’s “Paths to Quality” 4-Level program. Level 2 is reserved for childcare facilities staffs who have completed professional training, such as the CDA (childhood development assistant) certificate, or degrees (associate’s or bachelor’s) in early childhood education or elementary education. Level 3 requires 50 percent of the staff to have completed their professional training – a goal CLC has already met. In addition, Level 3 requires the facility to provide 20 hours of in-service training annually to its staff whereas Level 2 requires only 12 hours. Stevens says only the additional in-service training is holding CLC back from the Level 3 award. She is confident that she and her staff will move forward in this area.
CLC opens eight classrooms from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday: two for infants, one for 1-year-olds, two for 2-year-olds, one for 3 and 4-year-olds, one for Pre-K, and one for after-school care. Twenty-three staff supports these classrooms: 18 teachers and assistants, two cooks, a receptionist, the assistant director and the director. CLC is accepting new enrollees and invites potential students and their parents to tour the facility. Interested families may call CLC and Director Jamie Stevens for more information at 812-838-3312.