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7 weeks of great educators: Congratulations Hattie Mae Covington!

Hattie Mae Covington with KinderCare leaders Wei-Li Chong and Dr. Elanna Yalow. Hattie holds a photo of herself with one of her classroom families -- including two generations of her students.As we at KinderCare Education celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we’re kicking off a series of stories about educators around our company who have inspired generations of learners. In 2016, seven employees are celebrating 40 years or more with KinderCare Education. Today, we highlight one of those teachers: Hattie Mae Covington, a toddler teacher at the Providence Road KinderCare Learning Center in Charlotte, N.C. who celebrated her 40th anniversary with KinderCare in April.

What brought you to KinderCare?
One of my in-laws worked there. At the time I had a two-year-old and a four-year old. I needed a place to work where I could bring my children. The cook position was open and she recommended that I apply for it. I did. A few months later the Two’s teacher had to leave for family reasons and because I spent so much time helping out in the classrooms, it seemed like a natural fit.

Why do you like two-year-olds?
I like their high energy level. They’re always so energetic and willing to learn. They’re so open to new things. I don’t know why they got the label “the terrible twos.”

Looking back over the past 40 years of your KinderCare career, what’s a favorite moment of yours?
This is a hard question…[recently] I was at Home Depot buying plants and I heard someone saying “Ms. Hattie! Ms. Hattie!” I looked around and there was Carson [a three-year-old]. He was there with his mother. I said, “Hello Carson! What are you doing?” and we talked about getting flowers for our gardens. After we said goodbye I kept going through the store, not knowing Carson left his mother and was following me! He had a hard time understanding that he had to go back to his mom, but I promised him I’d see him on Monday.

What keeps you coming back to work each day?
I like the feeling of being needed. I also like the staff. Many of them have been here for a long time too.

Hattie Mae Covington with KinderCare leaders Wei-Li Chong and Dr. Elanna Yalow. Hattie holds a photo of herself with one of her classroom families -- including two generations of her students.
Have any of your former students returned to visit you? How does that make you feel?
Oh yes. It makes me feel real special. One of my students came back to visit me in April. Ariel is in college now, but she and her brother stopped by to visit me.

Some of Covington’s current students are the children (or grandchildren) of former students. Although it can take her a while to see the former two-year-old in an adult’s face, she enjoys teaching the latest generation of Charlotte’s youth and likes the fact that families are able to return to a place they have fond memories of and entrust their children to their former teachers.

What’s changed in the early childhood education field since you began your career here?
Now there’s more of an emphasis on a teacher’s educational background. The children have also changed. This age group has no fear, no stranger danger and that didn’t used to be the case.

Hattie and her family, including her sister, children, and grandchildren.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
That we’re basically all the same. And to always be willing to accept something new. We have many cultures in our classroom, but to the children it’s not about differences: it’s just a new friend to them!

What advice would give your younger self on your first day at KinderCare?
Do your best, be dependable, and take care of the kids – that’s what we’re really here for. I still enjoy teaching. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.