Teacher:

Dee Longaker.

School:

New Gulph Children's Center, a nonprofit day-care center and preschool in Villanova.

What she has done:

Longaker, 87, has taught for 33 years at the New Gulph Children's Center. She is involved in the preschool program.

Question:

How long have you been a teacher?

Answer:

I was a kindergarten teacher for two years at the Haverford Boys School in the early '40s, then stopped to raise my family. When they were grown, I worked for two years in a Montessori school. In 1974, I started working at New Gulph, and have been there ever since.

Q:

Why did you want to work with young children?

A:

I have always loved children, and I enjoy watching and helping them grow and mature.

Q:

How many children do you teach?

A:

There are 23 children in the preschool program this year, with four teachers. Most of the morning, they all play and work together, but we break into groups for about an hour to do academic work. Two teachers have the early 3s, another has the late 3s and early 4s, and I have the 4- and 5-year-olds.

Q:

What's different about your teaching method?

A:

I try to determine each child's individual style of learning. For instance, does he like to use his eyes, his ears, or is the "hands on" approach the best for him? I also like to teach them to refer to books for information. In disciplining, I find the positive approach the most effective. "Catch them being good" is my motto.

Q:

What's the toughest part of your job?

A:

The hardest part for me at New Gulph is putting up and taking down bulletin boards. However, I call it my "workout" for the day.

Q:

What's the highlight of your work week?

A:

I think seeing the gleam in a child's eye when he understands a new concept really makes my day.

Q:

How do you have fun with the children?

A:

We have fun at circle time, singing the songs of the season. Story time and work time can also be fun. Some of the most fun is just having conversations with the children.

Q:

Have the children had any good quips?

A:

We have had so many funny things happen at school, we wish we had started a book. One that comes to mind is, after reading

The Night Before Christmas

, one child asked, "What is a jerk?" as when "Santa turned with a jerk."

Another child quickly answered, "Oh, I know. That's what my mom called the driver in front of us."

Also, we have fruit cocktail for dessert sometimes, and one child always asked for "more cotton fruittail, please."

Q:

What do you have in common with the children?

A:

I think I am as curious as they are. Whenever we find an unusual insect or plant, I can't wait to look it up and read about it with them.

Q:

What's unique about your students?

A:

Most of them have been together since they were little babies in the infant-toddler program, so they are really like one big family.

Q:

What tips do you have for parents today?

A:

Read to your children, and when you discipline them, be consistent and never make a threat that you can't carry out, and don't be afraid to say "no." Also, listen to your children. They often have very important things to say.

Q:

What's your most memorable moment?

A:

This happened just the other day. One of our former students' mothers had been to a conference at his kindergarten. She told us that the teacher said whenever they see that a child has come from New Gulph Children's Center, they know that he or she will be well-prepared.

Q:

What's your most memorable holiday moment?

A:

We have a tradition at New Gulph of making a "sharing salad" right before Thanksgiving. Each child brings a fruit to school, and we all help to cut it up and fill a big fruit bowl. We share it for snack, along with cornbread.

Of course, everyone wears pilgrim hats or Native American headbands. The children enjoy helping to make the salad and are eager to find their fruit when it is served.

Q:

What message do you communicate to the children around the holidays?

A:

We try to celebrate as many holidays as we can fit in so the children will know there are many ways to celebrate the holidays. We usually do St. Nicklaus Day, St. Lucia Day, Hanukkah and Christmas.

Q:

Will you get the children a Christmas gift?

A:

Magically each year right before Christmas, presents for all appear under the tree. We sometimes even see Rudolph's red nose and hear Santa's sleigh bells as he leaves.

Q:

What is your personal hope for the children?

A:

I want them to grow into happy, healthy individuals who never stop learning. When former students come back to visit us and tell us about their successful lives and careers, we feel we have achieved our goal.

- Shannon Hallamyer