A Legacy of Learning, A Legacy of Love
May 20, 2021
Depending upon perspective, forty years can seem like a long time, and it turns out to be the lineage of a unique place on the Peoria Campus. The Children’s Learning Lab (CLL) can best be described as a small city unto itself. The DHS-rated daycare center offers students hands-on learning inside a working daycare.
But the learning goes beyond the classroom, the lab is filled with Tulsa Tech alumni. One of those alumnae is Adrienne Thompson, Supervisor of the Children’s Learning Lab. While a student, Thompson enjoyed the program, the environment, and working with young children so much that she never left. Now after nearly two decades, she continues the legacy of the learning lab.
“The legacy line started in the 1980’s when (recently-retired instructor) Becky Cunningham was a high school student,” Thompson said with a smile. “She developed the line and it just continues with students returning to work here.”
A lineage that encompasses eight members of the 14 person Early Care and Education program. The high school program offers students a unique opportunity to work in a daycare setting, while still learning the skills needed in the workforce.
Skills including developing age-appropriate activities, child care, and leadership roles to know how to take charge in any situation.
“We want our students to be ready for whatever the world throws at them,” Thompson said. “At times it may look like controlled chaos, but everyone knows the expectations in the lab.”
Expectations and opportunities abound in the lab, especially with thirty little children to care for each day. However, each challenge is met with a unique and sometimes special reward for those lucky enough to work in the lab with kids every day.
“Every milestone in their life from six weeks to five-years-old, we get to be a part of here,” Racheal Foster, Children’s Learning Lab Instructor. “We get to know everyone in each child’s life and take part in events even outside of the lab.”
The legacy of the learning lab is not lost on Foster, she is one of the alumni that now call the lab their home, and she could not imagine working anywhere else.
“I love the children,” Foster said ecstatically. “I love our families, the staff. We are just one big family and that is what makes the CLL so special.”
Foster also boasted that this is amazingly the only job she has ever had. She says that she doesn’t count the two shifts at a retail store, something her co-workers like to tease her about. All of this creates a special environment that is working to fulfill Tulsa Tech’s mission of Educating people for success in the workplace. The only difference is that mission brings them back to be staff members and faculty, the lineage that rises to teach the next generation.
A difference that is not lost on Thompson, “The benefit of people coming back is they know the quality of the center. We all know the high standards and we want to maintain those.”
The CLL legacy has its heart in helping students find a rewarding career in child care. Because, students not only learn skills but also make friendships that can last them a lifetime.
“We stick together and are here for each other,” Foster said. While Thompson added, “I am glad to be part of the Children’s Learning Lab legacy and so proud to carry on the tradition that Becky (Cunningham) started nearly 40 years ago.”