by Beth Reichmuth
Alumna, Central Indiana
I grew up on the eastside of Indianapolis and graduated from Warren Central high school in 2004. Since I was a child myself, I always loved working with young children. In 2005, I began attending Early Childhood Education courses at Ivy Tech’s Lawrence with the intention of transferring to IUPUI for a degree in Elementary Education. During my ECE courses though, I began working at a play-based childcare center near the Lawrence. To my surprise, I fell in love with being an early childhood educator.
During my ECE course work at Ivy Tech I learned invaluable strategies, theories, and developmentally appropriate practices to support the children in my care. And I also found a true passion in myself for supporting young children by building authentic, respectful relationships with each child and their family.
I completed my Associate of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Ivy Tech in 2008. I then decided to build on this education and follow this new passion all the way to Mountain View, California to complete a year-long intensive Montessori Teacher Training program through Association Montessori International.
After spending two years in Montessori environments, I made the move from Mountain View, California about an hour north to San Francisco. There I began working as a nanny to a 2 year old child on the autism spectrum and his family. In that role I partnered with expert specialists and continued build on the base of knowledge acquired at Ivy Tech to learn how to respectfully, playfully, and successfully support children with a wide range of sensory and behavioral challenges. During this time, I also completed a mentorship-based Instructor Training program with the child safety organization, Kidpower, Teenpower, Fullpower International.
After nannying and offering personal safety classes to young children and their families for 3 ½ years, I began my current position as a teachers at play-based, special-needs inclusive preschool in San Francisco. I have worked as a teacher at this school for the last 4 years. Here I have found inspiring colleagues to collaborate with and amazingly thoughtful families to partner with.
While working at this incredibly diverse and welcoming school, I have been the teacher to a child who is identified as a boy, and loves wearing skirts and dresses. As teacher, and an LGBT person, I know how important it is for each person in the school community to feel that they are seen and celebrated in that community. When I looked for a book to reflect this child’s experience though, I found many books that focused on the bullying that gender-creative kids can face, but no books that just simply and playfully offered the message, “Whatever your experience of gender is — you are an important and loved member of this community.” So with the support of my colleagues, administrators, and the families we serve, I began to create a book to contribute to filling this void in children’s literature.
It is because of the incredible support of this school community that I was able to find the encouragement and support needed to author and raise funds to fully publish my first children’s book, I’m Jay, Let’s Play.
I’m Jay, Let’s Play is a sweet story, about Jay’s morning at preschool playing with friends, that models gender fluidity as a normal and delightful part of the lives of young children. It will be available for sale in San Francisco Bay Area bookstores and online at Amazon.com as of June 1st — just in time for LGBT Pride month.
This professional journey has been so much more interesting, satisfying, and exciting than I could have ever guessed when I first enrolled for classes as a high school graduate at Ivy Tech 16 years ago. Though my path may have seen wandering at times, it is apparent now looking back that the love and passion I found during my coursework at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana for supporting and celebrating young children continues to provide me with a solid foundation and from which to grow, explore, and succeed as an early childhood educator in an ever-evolving field and world.