Childcare provider sacrifices for job
Tammy Rieker may have fallen into childcare when she first began her business more than 24 years ago, but since then she’s gone above and beyond what the business required. Her backyard is dedicated to children, complete with a giant playground and team building workstations she and her husband put together. Inside, art projects hang on the wall and snack-time yogurts sit on the kitchen table as children wash their hands.
"I feel more comfortable talking to 8-year-olds sometimes," Rieker admitted. "This is where I am most comfortable, where I like to be. Taking care of children is so much of who I am."
From getting her licenses and certificates from the state and professional organizations to taking course on child development, the Coalville-based grandmother has the qualification of a childcare program director. She even turned down a position as the director a university childcare program, all because she couldn’t imagine doing anything else anywhere else.
"I really love what I do," Rieker said. "I want to be here for these families."
Her business first started after a friend who was pregnant at the same time asked if she would be willing to watch her baby as she finished the last six weeks of nursing school. Not long after, another friend’s husband died of a sudden heart attack, leaving her with a little girl and a full-time job. Rieker started taking on her friend’s children, too, and after six years, she decided to get her license.
She admits there is a high demand and limited options for parents in Coalville. With only two licensed childcare providers in town, Rieker said it can be difficult for parents to find the right, if any, fit.
"The demand for childcare is great in Summit County, in Coalville especially," Rieker said. "I couldn’t imagine quitting and leaving the parents. They’d be in a tight spot trying to find someone else because there is only myself and one other person who is licensed in Coaville."
Rieker is licensed to care for up to 16 children, but she intentionally keeps the group slightly smaller so that she can keep her attention on more of a one-on-one level. As a childcare provider, her biggest goal is to treat every child like an individual, to hone in this or that theory on child development to connect with every child in her care.
Her commitment to the Coalville families she works with has paid off. Word of mouth has kept her business alive, with Rieker often having to turn away parents due to capacity limits. In some cases, before a couple has decided to try for their second child, they approach Rieker to be added to her waitlist for care.
"One friend, before she even put in her papers, came up and asked me if I’d be willing to watch any child she was able to adopt," Rieker said. "I said, ‘Of course.’"
The two children her friend adopted have both since been cared for by Rieker.
"I want children to learn when they are here," Rieker said, "physically and intellectually. I want to help them reach their milestones."
A planner at heart, she sets up annual events and mini-programs and even attends ballet recitals and football games in her off hours.
Her End of School Chocolate Fountain Party is an annual favorite where all the children she watches after stop by. More recently, Riker hosted a clown party where parents were required to attend, her way of making more time for parent-child interactions. The entire week leading up to the party, she started teaching children about clowns and creating clown art projects as a way to help anyone who might be afraid.
Rieker looks at the small things too, encouraging older children to read to the younger ones and covering grade-level math lessons over the summer.
"Children have this strong ability to learn, to want to know," Rieker said. "They can do more today than they could years ago, multitask more than in past generations. It’s important to build on that and help them along."
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East Side mayors say the Summit County COVID-19 related restrictions are experimenting with their businesses’ busy season.