by Beth Stauffer

Calling the space at the New Haven United Methodist Church where Donna Michel has worked as the Preschool Director for almost 25 years an “office” is kind of a misnomer.

When entering the large, busy room, one instantly makes mental comparisons to the office being more like a workshop, a place where over the years, under Michel’s direction, NHUMC Preschool staff has created many fun, developmentally-appropriate activities to enhance the learning of New Haven’s youngest learners.

On Saturday, May 3rd, 2014, Michel’s years of service to the NHUMC Preschool Program, and the work she accomplished behind the scenes from this office, will be honored with an opened house at the church from 2-4 pm.  The community is encouraged to attend, especially those who are alumni of the program and may have had Miss Donna (as she is affectionately known) for a teacher over the years.

Michel’s near 25 years with the preschool probably comes as a little bit of a surprise to her in retrospect, as she never really set out to procure a job in the field of Early Childhood Education.

In 1985, this mother of 4 sent her youngest son, Paul, off to the preschool as a student.  At first, things seemed to go well, but by the time October rolled around young Paul would begin to cry inconsolably every day in the middle of class.  Upon questioning, Paul told his mother the reason he would cry was, “I just think about you being at home by yourself and it makes me sad, Mom.”

With a laugh, Michel says little did Paul know she was at home very much enjoying her two free child-free hours.  Nevertheless, Nona Sims, the Preschool Director at the time, had a solution to the problem that made Paul feel a lot better: she offered Michel a job as a part-time aide in another classroom during the times he was in preschool.

Paul, who is now 29, eventually moved on with his studies, but his mother stayed on with the preschool.  Michel says she has worked in every position in the program since, from teacher’s aide to classroom teacher to Director.

Now, Michel is set to retire and enjoy the good life with her husband, with whom she will celebrate 40 years of marriage this June.  The couple plans to move to Crawfordsville to be closer to family following her retirement.  The couple will also be taking a cruise with their entire family to celebrate their anniversary in the near future, so it would seem Michel plans to keep busy for the foreseeable future.

First, Michel is excited to see many of the estimated more than 2,400 youngsters and families she has had the joy of working with over the years at the Open House in her honor on May 3rd from 2-4 pm.

The NHUMC Preschool program will announce the new Director during Preschool Sunday on May 4th, but one thing is sure—Miss Donna leaves a lasting legacy of love and learning behind at the preschool she has served so faithfully over the years.

“She is just wonderful,” said staff member Lori Christman of Michel.  “Donna will be sorely missed.”

POSTED: 04/28/14 at 7:13 am. FILED UNDER: News, Schools