Becoming a teacher wasn’t on Kathy Van Amburg’s mind when she began taking early childhood education classes at Des Moines Area Community College.
At the time, she had one child and was taking courses to help her be a more educated parent, Van Amburg says. She also thought it would help in her work with children at the YMCA in downtown Des Moines.
For her practicum, she observed and taught a few lessons to 4- and 5-year-olds at Apple Tree Children’s Center in Norwalk. The director at the time offered her a substitute position, and then about a week later, hired her on full time.
She’s now been at Apple Tree for seven years and recently switched from teaching the 3-year-olds to the 4- and 5-year-olds.
The biggest difference between the age groups is that the older children’s attention span is longer, which offers more of an opportunity to teach, Van Amburg says.
Her goal is to instill in children a love of learning so that when they go to school, they’re eager to learn. To do that, she gets the kids engaged by making things fun and changing things up. For example, when practicing how to write their names, she uses a variety of mediums, from Play-Doh to watercolor.
“They’re more engaged when they’re having fun,” she says.
The toughest part of her job is watching the children leave Apple Tree to go to school.
“I get really attached to the kids in my classroom,” Van Amburg says. “When they leave Apple Tree, it’s really hard.”
Over the years, she says the greatest lesson the children have taught her is resiliency.
“Something can happen one day that makes them upset, and the next day they’ve forgotten about it,” she says. “They’re just so resilient.”
Van Amburg, who received her early childhood education associate degree in 2009 and will receive her elementary education degree (for pre-kindergarten to third grade) in the spring, envisions being at Apple Tree for a while. But she would at some point like to move to Florida, where her brother lives, to teach, she says.
Van Amburg, her husband, David, and two daughters, Samantha, 13 and Sarah, 10, live in Norwalk and like to spend their time outdoors. She also enjoys scrapbooking and reading in her free time.