By Shawn Deiter
Many years ago, Sue Davis stepped into a toddler classroom and was greeted by a young girl. The child gently took Sue’s hand and led her to a quiet corner of the room to read a book together. The director of the child care center observed their interaction and was impressed with Sue’s warm, encouraging personality and how she communicated with the child. The center director later pulled Sue aside and offered her a position on the spot. This began her 26 years of service in early childhood education for the former Spring Garden Children’s Center, now LVCC at Spring Garden Early Learning Center, in Easton.
Throughout her long tenure, Sue worked as a van aid, a center cook, a toddler teacher and—her current position—a school-age teacher. She embraces hands-on lessons with STEAM concepts (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) by having the children research a topic on the computer, gather materials, and design something using a step by step learning process. Her love of art and the sciences has inspired many of the creative activities in her classroom. In the upcoming summer months, her school-age children (ages six to eight) will learn to express themselves through abstract art in the style of Jackson Pollock and Georgia O’Keeffe, along with researching the history of the artists. Another favorite summer activity is to have the children work together in their garden by planting seeds and charting the growth of their fruit and vegetable plants.
“Our classroom motto is taken from lyrics from the movie Sister Act 2,” Sue explains. “If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention. I want them to take ownership and responsibility for the choices they make.”
Each child is assigned a monthly task, such as cleaning up an area of the classroom at the end of the day, or community partnership—helping fulfill a task for another child who is not in class. The tasks are tracked on a job chart. When each task is completed, the children earn play money. They practice their math skills when adding and subtracting play dollars to “buy” items from the prize box. At the end of every other week, the class sits down to discuss the job chart.
If there is a problem, Ms. Sue guides the children to resolve any conflicts. “I ask them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and think about finding a solution. Maybe you can help this person with their task. What if we tried this option?”
Sue feels children a often more aware than adults realize. A child recently taught her to let go of all the tension which can build up, simply by placing her hand on Sue’s shoulder and saying, “Ms. Sue, just let it go.”
Among her accolades, Sue was the first teacher in Pennsylvania to earn the school-age Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential™. In 2003, she received the Community Services for Children School-Age Caregiver Award.
As the years pass, Sue loves to hear from her former students and see them prosper as adults. One young boy in her memory loved building with blocks. He later graduated from the University of Florida, became an engineer, and helped construct the Freedom Tower (now called One World Trade Center) in New York City. Sue takes great pride in knowing that the educational foundation she provides in her classroom may inspire future artists, architects, engineers, and civic leaders.