Work is child’s play for Brooke Reifsteck, a child development supervisor at the Expanded Child Development Lab. Along with two full-time colleagues and a steady flow of student teachers, Reifsteck cares for 17 3-year-olds enrolled in the full-day child-care program. Reifsteck joined the university’s staff in January 2003 right after she graduated from Eastern Illinois University in December with a degree in early childhood education.
Tell me a little about what you do every day.
I work from 7 to 3:30 in full-day child care for children of students, faculty, staff and families in the community. We’re responsible for daily care for the kids, making sure they’re safe and healthy.
We also plan and implement age-appropriate activities for them, to keep them stimulated and excited about learning. We have an emergent curriculum: We look at the types of things they’re interested in, and then we plan activities and experiences around those things. For example, they’ve been interested in knowing what time it is lately. So we took the clock off the wall and traced it and we listened to it. Today they were drawing their own clocks – which also helps them work on writing numbers and adds to their knowledge of how things work – how life works – because it’s all time-scheduled.
How many kids do you have typically?
There are 10 to 20 in a room. Three moved away, so now we have 17. There are two other teachers who work with me on a full-time basis. The school day for the kids is 7:30 to 5:30.
Why did you choose this field of work?
My original major was math and I was planning to be a high-school math teacher. I still love math, but after having a few experiences in high-school practicums, I decided that high-school teaching wasn’t the place for me. I kind of experimented around a little bit and found out that I really love working with 3- to 4-year-olds.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Definitely working with the kids and the families. Every day is a new day. Nothing’s ever boring. It’s great to hear the stories the kids come in with every day. It’s amazing how much they know in only three years of life.
What’s the most challenging part of what you do?
Keeping things consistent for the kids. We get student teachers and workers, and it seems like there are different faces in our room all the time. Sometimes it’s a challenge in consistency for us as teachers to make sure what’s going on in the room is really working for the staff that’s present at that time. We really have to work hard to make sure that the kids are seeing the same things all the time.
One of the things that makes this place great is that the kids are from all different backgrounds. It does make things challenging every once in a while, but it keeps everything interesting for us. And the kids don’t know any different; they love each other the same.
What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not working?
I just started grad school, and I’m working on my master’s in special education.
I coach the dance team for Villa Grove High School, which is where I went to high school. I’m really involved with that, especially throughout the winter. It’s a competition team, and we compete in the Illinois Drill Team Association. The team went to the state competition this year, which was held at the Assembly Hall on March 27, and won fourth place. They did a hip-hop routine and a pom routine, and the pom routine was the one they got fourth place in.
Were you on the dance team when you were in high school?
Yes, and my little sister graduated this year, so she was on it this year when I taught it. Family is really huge for me; I spend a lot of time with my family, especially my nephew who just turned 2.