Learn about Educare Teacher April Savage's story & journey with Educare Seattle!
My name is April Savage and I am a teacher at Educare Head Start in White Center, Washington. I recently celebrated my tenth year teaching at Educare. As a teacher at Educare, I have an associate degree in early learning. I have many of the same responsibilities as the lead teacher, including a caseload of students and assisting in curriculum planning and all classroom needs. I love my job — being a part of Educare brings me a sense of purpose and belonging.
I have loved working with young kids since I was a child. It was just ingrained in me to play with and help children and to want to take care of them. I remember I would volunteer at childcare centers and babysit for free because it wasn’t a job to me — it was fun. As I got older, I knew I wanted to teach but I never really pictured myself teaching elementary-age students; I knew it had to be young children. I started to work at daycare centers right out of high school and during college. I was taking early education classes while working because I knew where my heart was, but I didn’t really have a plan. Back then there were not a lot of jobs in early learning. I started to worry that I would be working at a daycare forever, which was a fun job but not something I could make a livable wage doing.
In 2005 I had my first son. I was living in Spokane, WA. I was in a dangerously abusive relationship and knew I had to get out of there before my son was hurt. I tried to leave but my partner would find me and make sure we came back. One night, when he was in a rage, the police came; neighbors must have called. The police broke in with guns drawn as he was choking me. He was arrested and I finally had my chance to get away. I moved to Seattle with my Dad where Trenton (my son) and I could be safe. After I moved, I found out that I was pregnant again. So I now had two sons with the father in prison. At that time, I was working at a daycare and receiving state assistance. My dad’s house didn’t have room for the three of us, so I had to move out before the baby was born. Life was hard, and it felt like it was going to be hard forever. My only choice at the time was to work at a daycare so my kids could go there for free.
In 2009, I heard about Educare, a beautiful educational building being built for young children. I wondered about it, but I wasn’t sure what it was all about. Still, I applied for my sons to go there. Little did I know, both my sons would get in because they had high need as I am a single mother and their father is in prison.
My sons started at Educare shortly after it opened, and it felt like a huge weight was lifted off of me knowing my kids would go to high-quality preschool. I knew it was important, but I didn’t know others who believed the same until I found Educare.
Everything about the Educare philosophy made me want to work there. My confidence was so low I didn’t even consider it a possibility; it was just a dream. The teachers and staff at Educare were so good to me. They saw strengths in my own parenting that I did not see. They got to know me, told me about job opportunities and encouraged me to apply.
Later that year, I became employed as a teacher. I look back at my first year of teaching and think about how much I’ve learned and how far I’ve come. I have learned that teaching is forever evolving. I always say that I have learned from the best. The original Educare staff were my mentors, my friends and my supervisors. The teams that I have been a part of showed me skills that I did not know I had. My love for young children was noticed and valued, but it also grew because I saw team and classroom dynamics that I had never seen before. I saw teachers take risks and allow children to be loud or lead at circle time. Ten years later, and this is still happening. I am still growing and learning, and I’m reminded daily why I chose this work.
My sons are now 14 and 15 years old, and they still talk about the teachers they had at Educare. For them, it was a school where they could be themselves and be accepted despite their own struggles. My favorite memories are when I would check on my sons on my break, and they would be dancing to Michael Jackson — my sons loved Michael Jackson. Their teachers turned this passion into a study of music. This directly impacted my son Max, who is still a musician today and is quite good, too!
Teaching during the pandemic has been another experience that has taught me a lot. My team had to come together and discuss plans for things we have never had to plan before. I went from thinking, “There is no way kids are coming to virtual classes,” to realizing they can come and even though it isn’t face-to-face, it actually does work and we are still learning a lot from each other. I’m glad I was wrong. I actually really like being wrong because that is when I really learn. I learned a completely different perspective. We had to bring two teams together who have different teaching styles. Though we did have our differences, we always came to an understanding that we all want what is best for kids and families and we brought both sides together to make it work with smiles on the faces of both teachers and kids. Our families made this work beautifully.
This past year has been one of the worst. My colleagues have gotten COVID-19. Educare has faced closures. My students have dealt with various struggles. My son’s school had to close. My Dad — my biggest supporter — passed away. My coworkers have been laid off. The list of challenges goes on and on.
What I learned from all of this is that Educare is still my rock.
Educare staff are my family, and even though these last 12 months have been incredibly difficult on all of us for various reasons, we still have each other. The more we lean into one another, the stronger we are. I am proud of us. Educare saved me years ago, and in many ways, it is still saving me today.