Teacher says 'goodbye' after 11 years

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Teachers are generally remembered by the way they touched the lives of others. When Alice Barber leaves Sunrise Kids Preschool, she'll remember how her life was touched by those she taught.

Barber, 51, tries to remember something special and unique about each of the nearly 800 children she's come into contact with in her 11 years as a preschool teacher.

There will be an open house at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sunrise Kids Preschool and Child Care in honor of Alice Barber, who is leaving after 11 years. All families who have had Miss Alice in their lives are invited to 700 School St.

Barber's last day is Feb. 28, and she'll move from Craig to Montrose soon after.

Her husband, Ken, accepted a transfer from the Craig Station Power Plant to its Montrose counterpart.

"We're pretty excited," Barber said. "We were hoping to retire where it's warmer."

She said it won't be an unwelcome change.

"For us it is," said Judi Whilden, owner of Sunrise Kids.

After nearly 26 years in Craig, there are many things Barber said she'll miss: the sense of community, the feeling of home, and of course, the children who have become such a big part of her life.

"It's pretty gratifying," she said. "We'll miss a lot of this community. It will take a while until I can walk down the street (in Montrose) and recognize people.

"I've gotten comfortable in Craig, I really have. I hope that I find that again."

When Barber first moved to Craig, she stayed at home with her three children and did home day care.

Her children grew and Barber started checking the classifieds for job openings. Sunrise Kids needed a teacher and Barber fit. She's been "Miss Alice" since.

Whilden bought the business a month later. After 11 years, the two are more like family than co-workers, she said.

"If there's a way I could prevent her from leaving, I would," Whilden said. "I'm losing my right arm. She's an absolutely wonderful, warm, loving person, who helped make this place what it is."

A preschool teacher's job isn't much different from that of a kindergarten teacher, Whilden said. A good preschool incorporates lessons in math, reading, social studies, art, music, social skills and movement.

Barber creates a lesson plan each day. One of her favorite things is introducing new activities to students.

"Sometimes you think you know what their reaction will be, but kids always surprise you," she said. "I really take a lot of joy in seeing the way children learn."

The mark of a good teacher is adaptability, Barber said, because no matter how well you plan, you never know what's going to happen.

"Some days, you get on a roll, and nothing goes the way you planned at all," she said. "There's a lot of improvisation."

Barber remembers one day that bad weather kept the children inside. She opted for a fail-safe fallback plan, Play-Doh, except on that particular day the Play-Doh was too sticky to play with, and students couldn't get it off their hands. Ever the innovator, Barber got out a canister of flour and gave each student a bit of flour to mix with the Play-Doh. One student got a little more than he needed when Barber dropped all the flour on his head.

"I won't ever forget that look on his face," she said.

Barber said she'll probably take it easy in Montrose, working in the garden and possibly working as a substitute teacher in a preschool setting.

"What I've found in a preschool that I didn't expect is the support of other adults," she said. "I don't think I'd want to go back to home care."

But, Barber said, she'll really miss her students when she leaves.

"Children really keep you young," she said.

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