After almost 23 years as an early childhood educator at OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre, Carol Louis has affected families for multiple generations.
About five years ago she began teaching the children of kids she had previously taught.
“It’s so cool, I found out today that one of the moms bringing a kid in, I worked with her when she was 14 years old,” Louis laughed.
“I’ve taught the auntie of a little boy, and the mother of some kids. It’s just so cool when they come back.”
Louis is now heading into retirement after over two decades of teaching pre-school age children at the non-profit organization that provides individualized integrated services for young children with developmental needs.
“I’m going to be sad, I’m going to miss the kids, all the employees here,” Louis said. “It’s sad but you know it’s a different stage in life. I’m excited to start a new stage of my life, spend more time with my family do a little bit more travelling.”
She has lived in the Okanagan all her life, living in Penticton since 1981. After doing some substitution and home daycare work in the area, Louis came to the OSNS when her children were still in kindergarten.
The visibly cheerful Louis said after two decades she’s “still doing it and still loving it,” and she will be seen around OSNS coming in to substitute sometimes.
“I love watching the children make friends, I love watching them learn skills, making friends, things like that. It’s so rewarding when they learn to do things and gain confidence. The smiles on their face, it just gives a good feeling in my heart,” Louis said.
Pre-school supervisor Ginnie Weston was working at OSNS when Louis started.
“She’s a wonderful person. Very energetic and focused on getting as much done as she can in the time that she’s here. Responsible, dedicated, I can’t say enough about her,” Weston said.
Weston was emotional when giving a speech announcing Louis retirement at the OSNS annual general meeting.
“It was hard, it’s like losing my right arm,” Weston said. “She’s just an awesome co-worker although I’m very happy for her. I’m happy she’s retiring and has lots of energy to do lots of stuff, but also we’re really going to miss her.”
Weston said that Louis would help out if she heard of any kids in need, finding winter boots or a coat, always hunting for deals to keep the pre-school stocked in snacks or apples and volunteering. Louis also made it a yearly occasion to donate toys during Christmas. Louis has grown her hair out and cut it to donate for cancer patient wigs as well.
Louis particularly enjoys cooking with the kids. Practicing skills and making sure they are hands-on at every opportunity.
“It will be hard to fill her shoes for sure,” Weston said.
For Louis, her time at OSNS was and always will be about the kids. Her favourite activity was cooking with them.
“I let them crack their egg and it’s amazing when they crack it and how hard it is for a young child to crack an egg,” she said with a laugh.
Louis also accompanied children on their trips to the visit the care facility for seniors across the road as well.
“The seniors love it, the kids love it,” Louis said.
Working on computers, singing songs and reading stories were just a few of the favourite activities Louis participated in with the children.
At the end of the day, play time is key for children’s development, she said.
“Children learn through play, so I get to play with the kids and we just have fun and we learn through play,” Louis said.
Biking around the path at the outdoor playground at OSNS, kids would unknowingly learn some math skills when they pull up for “five dollars worth of gas,” in the form of high-fives.
“They learn the one-to-one concept, they learn how to count just through playing. Kids learn best just through play,” Louis said. “I’m really fortunate to get paid for something I love that doesn’t feel like a job, it’s just fun.”
Kids are so special,” Louis said, noting she has three kids of her own, two living abroad and one who just returned home. “You love your kids so much and want to do thing for your kids, then the kids I work with are so special, I get so much quality time with kids, I just love it, it doesn’t seem like work.”