It’s obvious that Amy Roth is meant to work with children.
She talks softly, uses her hands, makes eye contact. Her demeanor is gentle and nurturing, and her eyes are tender when she looks at the children in her classroom. She’s celebrating her 30th year as a teacher for 3-year-olds at the East Aurora Community Nursery, and it’s a surprising number for her.
Talking about seeing former students out and about, she said, “It makes me feel a little old. I don’t feel like I’m that old, so when that happens it’s like oh my, time has really flown.” One of her former students published a wedding announcement, and she was shocked.
“I remember that kid like it was yesterday,” she said. “She was 3-years-old and now she’s a grown woman getting married. I can’t believe I’ve been doing this that long, it doesn’t even feel like it.”
Roth was born in Marilla, where she grew up with a love for wilderness and play, riding her bike and adventuring through the woods, often by herself.
“I was kind of a quiet child, reserved, shy,” Roth said. “I wasn’t a ‘jump into things’ kind of kid.”
She knew from a young age, though, that she wanted to be a teacher and a mother. Her mother was a teacher at Alden for 33 years, and her aunt was a preschool teacher. She shadowed her aunt a few times and really fell in love with being around children and their capabilities.
She enjoys the nurturer role as well- mixing her love of motherhood with her love of teaching others made her position at the East Aurora Community Nursery a perfect fit. She attended Iroquois Central Schools through high school and obtained an associate’s degree of applied science from Villa Maria college in 1987. She interned for many schools around the area in order to complete her degree, but the nursery here stuck out to her.
“I had seen many other centers and interned other places and I knew that this was the best place,” she said. “I just loved it.”
In 1988 (the same year she and her husband Michael married), the nursery had no available positions. She knew that this was the place for her, so she continued to call and talk to staff until they hired her part-time – one of the teachers was pregnant at the time, so Roth could work in her place a few days a week and when the woman went on maternity leave. She worked at Pooh’s Corner, the 3-year-old room, and eventually her position became full-time.
It was the right fit for Roth. She befriended the director, Mary Anne Haney, who she called “a wonderful mentor for many years.” When Haney passed, new director Karie Kelchlin stepped in, and the two are great friends as well- Roth taught Kelchlin’s children when they were three in her classroom.
Teaching gives her the “satisfaction” of showing children new things.
“They literally absorb information like a sponge at this age,” Roth said, “and by the end of that third year they have learned and grown so much, the difference is amazing.”
Children in the age group she teaches, specifically, are at a prime age to learn and open their minds. They’re still babies, said Roth, so a teacher can give them the love and affection they require.
“You can be the nurturer as well as the teacher, and I like both aspects, so it works really well for me,” she said.
Something that a lot of people don’t realize about children that Roth has learned is the necessity of tenderness in their lives. “Even though they may seem tough and give you a hard time, they all need the love and hugs,” Roth said.
It certainly has been a process for the 30 years that Roth has been teaching. She served as a consultant for the United Way Success by Six program, teaching other educators on how to obtain certificates from the state (a certificate in this case is somewhat of a “status symbol,” Roth explained, and shows that a teacher participated in extra courses to improve their strategies). She was a proud participant of the Aspire of WNY initiative for 19 years, during which she hosted an inclusive classroom with children of varied learning abilities. She has spoken on the inclusion program at the nursery in statewide early childhood education conferences as well.
Teaching is easy and comes naturally to Roth, but a lot of people don’t understand how taxing early childhood education is as a career.
“Most people feel like it’s babysitting, like it’s having fun with kids, it’s just playing with toys, but it’s a lot more than that,” Roth said. “Even though you love it, there are so many days that you literally have to leave here and take a time out, like a nap, to escape it all before you can move on to the next point of your day. “
Especially on party days or holidays, children get excited. On other days, the children don’t seem to cooperate. Roth can have up to 14 students in her classroom with an aide – a large number for the demand of teaching to pay attention to each child.
Like she mentioned, however, Roth loves the job, and it’s bittersweet to see them go around this time of year.
“Every year I get so attached,” she said. “It’s sad to see them go but it’s rewarding to see them go. They’re big enough and they can go off to kindergarten in two years, which is exciting.”
Celebrating thirty years is rewarding despite the stressful days. Now that her two children, Laura, 23, and Jonathan, 27, are out of the house, she and Michael are experiencing “a culture change.” She said she hasn’t found her “niche” yet, or a particular hobby that she likes to do. She enjoys reading novels (anything with a good story) and boating with her family. She and her husband are also fans of motorcycling across the countryside, and have been since their earliest years of marriage when Michael was gifted a motorcycle from Roth’s brother. Jonathan also owns a motorcycle, making it “a family thing.”
This year represents not only 30 years teaching, but 30 years with her husband as well. They’re not sure how they’ll celebrate it. Now that the children are out of the house, Roth would really like to travel.
“I’d like to see anywhere,” she said – she and the family haven’t been to many places outside of New York State. “I think the first place I would like to go is some place with turquoise water and white sand, some kind of tropical haven that everybody talks about.”
The most important influence in her life is her family – her husband and children.
“My children are everything to me, and being a mom is probably the best thing ever,” she said. “Even when I was young, probably too young to be thinking about, I couldn’t wait to be a mom and a teacher.”
She’s very satisfied with the fact that she accomplished both of those goals. Most young people who start in early childhood centers move on- for the assistants especially, it’s a stepping stone in their career path.
“Most people don’t start working in this field and expect for it to be a 30 year career. But I knew,” she said. “This is what I know, this is what I do, this is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
East Aurora Advertiser, June 13, 2018 | Hyperlink