Diane Martin spends her days singing, dancing and chasing two-year-olds. Not exactly everyone’s dream job, but for Martin it is. She’s a teacher at the Elmira Community Nursery School, a non-profit nursery in Elmira operated by a board of directors made up of parents. Graduating in 1977 from the early childhood education program at Conestoga College, Martin has been “playing” with kids for the last 34 years.
Martin started at the nursery school in 1984 and has seen hundreds of children come through her door.
“Being a teacher is something I always wanted to be,” said Martin. “I do sometimes ask myself what I am going to do when I grow up.”
Teaching for more than 30 years is no small feat. Over the last four years Martin has begun to see something she never experienced before. Her former students are bringing their children to her.
“I am teaching kids that are kids from my first group of kids,” jokes Martin. “I am very blessed to have the children of kids that I had the first couple of years I was up here, it’s unbelievable. It’s a good feeling because it means that they had a good experience and they want their child to have the same experience.”
Martin said the funny thing about having kids of former students is seeing all the traits that are passed along.
“I’ll meet a child for the first time and he or she will be shy and I’ll think back and remember that their mom or dad used to act the same way,” said Martin. “I really get to know a whole family this way.”
It’s all a part of working and growing in a small community.
“I have been very spoiled here and I have enjoyed the job, no two days are the same, no morning and no afternoon is the same – it’s still fun.”
According to Martin, kids are pretty much the same today as they were 30 years ago.
“It boils down to personality and parenting and how you socialize your children,” she explained. “A two-year-old is still a two-year-old. They’re still into the same thing two-year-olds were into all those years ago like fire trucks, dolls and Play Doh.”
Martin has one rule for her classroom: no technology allowed.
“I think it’s important that kids learn to play and are social. We don’t have a TV or video, there is no computer or DS systems. We just play together.”
Martin runs her classroom with the help of two parents who rotate from day to day.
“It’s great for the parents to be able to help out,” she said. “At the same time we give parents a few hours off and they know that their child is in good care and having fun and being nurtured. Moms can run to the grocery store, have coffee with friends, and do their errands without their little one in tow.”
The children at the nursery school have one job: have fun.
June is always an emotional time for Martin, who sees how her kids have changed over the year.
“I just love watching them grow,” said Martin. “When some of them come in September they come in crying very upset, can’t do the separation and now they are running in giving me a hug in the morning, it is very sweet to see that change.”
The children at the school range from two to four years of age.
“It’s nice to know that I am a part of their lives and that some of them never forget that.”