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Retiring preschool teacher looks back on career

Retiring preschool teacher looks back on career

Woodlake’s 2017 Educator of the Year is Nancy Crawford

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

WOODLAKE – Thirty years ago Nancy Crawford was perfectly happy raising her children and had never thought about a career beyond motherhood. But after spending the last 29 years preparing other people’s children for school, Woodlake’s 2017 Educator of the Year is finding it difficult to imagine life without work.

“Thinking of leaving is difficult,” said Crawford, who will retire this June. “Being an educator has allowed me to have an effect on so many kids. It’s going to be hard to not have that anymore.”

But Crawford’s impact on Woodlake youth will continue to benefit the community for at least another two generations. Nancy has helped educate nearly 2,000 Woodlake Unified preschoolers during her 24 years at Lulu Blair Kress Preschool.

“One of my neighbors whose children I taught in preschool now has his granddaughter living with him who I also taught in preschool,” she said. “She still calls me Teacher Nancy. It’s fun to watch the kids grow.”

Nancy’s first opportunity to test out teaching was as a parent volunteer at her children’s preschool, Cathy’s Country Kids. It was there she met owner Cathy Holzem who inspired Nancy and another mother, Rosie Valero, to teach young students. In 1989, Nancy began working at St. Clement’s Day Care Center in Woodlake.

When Lulu Blair Kress Preschool opened in 1992, Valero joined Maria Hernandez as teacher’s assistants at the two-classroom school. Two years later, Nancy moved from St. Clement’s to the preschool as a full time teacher.

In 2000, Nancy was named the director of the preschool and worked to ensure that students knew the alphabet, could write their name and could sit still and listen to instructions. For the last four years has also held the title of Kindergarten readiness coordinator. More than just educating the students on campus, Nancy provides training, information and materials to day cares and also heads up the Children’s Path to Literacy Program, which provides books to local shops for children to read and also hands them out during the Woodlake Rodeo Parade. She was also crucial in developing a kindergarten readiness test in conjunction with F.J. White School in Woodlake. Given to preschoolers at the beginning and end of the school year, Nancy said the test provides an assessment of a child’s knowledge and skills.

“We know from talking with teachers that children who our kids are better prepared for kindergarten than those who didn’t attend here,” she said.

Nancy and Valero will both retire this summer with more than 50 years of combined experience educating preschool aged children.

“I loved it and how much the kids loved us,” Nancy said.

If anyone was destined to be a teacher it was Nancy. Forty-four years ago she married Paul Crawford, a former teacher and coach at Woodlake Valley Middle School, and who is also the son of a kindergarten teacher. Paul and Nancy had two children. Their daughter, Katie St. Martin, is now a teacher at Three Rivers Union Elementary School.

“The Crawfords are teachers,” Nancy said.

Seemingly the only other career option for the Stiltzes and Crawfords is working for the National Park Service. Nancy’s grandfather, father, younger brother Kirk, son Will and son-in-law have all worked for Sequoia National Park. In 2016, Nancy even went on a 36-mile hike that included visiting Evelyn Lake, named after her great-great grandmother.

Nancy said she is looking forward to retirement so she can spend more time traveling with her husband and two sisters, all of whom have been retired for several years. She said it will be nice to take a trip longer than a weekend to avoid missing work but she will still miss the work of educating students.

“I may want to substitute at some point and get back in the classroom at the preschool level,” Nancy said. “It’s what I love to do.”

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