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Children’s Learning Center in DeKalb marks 50 years of service

July 14, 2018

DeKALB – As Nancy Teboda explained the services children receive at Children’s Learning Center, she was interrupted repeatedly. Over and over on this Thursday morning, she buzzed children and their parents through the vestibule.

The nonprofit business has ushered children through the doors for 50 years now, starting when migrant workers helped create an agriculture giant out of DeKalb, and they needed day care.

Teboda, the agency’s executive director, has been with the company

35 years and is in her 11th year in her current role. She’s had a good seat for the demographic and affluence changes in DeKalb, and CLC has done its best to grow appropriately.

“The major portion of our families are using state subsidies,” she said. “It’s not by nature of choice. It’s by nature of how the economics have changed in DeKalb.”

The board of directors has always had a mission to make more than half of the children it serves, from early childhood through school-age children, those who rely on government assistance, Teboda said.

While CLC has open enrollment, registration is full, although there’s a waiting list, and children are slotted into spots as they become available.

Outside Teboda’s office are several newspaper clippings of CLC alumni, including state wrestling champion Fabian Lopez, who will be a DeKalb High School junior in the fall.

“It’s tremendously fulfilling to see what these children will go on and do,” Teboda said. “We know we’re meeting the needs of children and families that have the greatest challenges. And that’s true of families that aren’t using state subsidies, as well.”

CLC has designated curriculum for children, whose development is assessed regularly.

A recent addition to the business model is school-aged children.

Whereas rates run from about $35 for part of a single day to $244 for five full days a week for infants and toddlers, CLC charges about $13 a day for before or after school and about $54 per week for children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Derik Martz, 7, a second-grader at Lincoln Elementary School, for instance, was relishing three straight wins in a card game called garbage, against teacher Tyler Briscoe, 23, an education student at Northern Illinois University who lives in DeKalb.

“Hey, but what about speed?” Briscoe asked Derik, visibly humbling him, as even he admitted she’d cleaned up in that card game before they shifted gears.

Derik said he loves the elements of play, compared with the typical school year, and the fact that they get out for exercise every day.

Briscoe said she’s glad to have some confirmation that, as she goes into her senior year at NIU, she’s on the right track.

“I definitely have learned this is for me,” Briscoe said. “I mostly enjoy working with toddlers, but I definitely learn something every day from the older children.”

Briscoe and Stephany Chalcraft, 26, who also lives in DeKalb and is studying communications at NIU, were the two teachers having a blast with about a dozen children in the school-age classroom.

Teboda said CLC tries to have three teachers in each classroom, but it often has to go with two, because of how hard it is to recruit teachers these days.

She said the loss of Nicor’s footprint in DeKalb, as well as that of DeKalb Ag, and the diminishing numbers at NIU have made it harder to bring in talent.

The two-teacher arrangement is still perfectly within the state’s required ratio, but Teboda said there’s a widespread struggle to find good teachers – even for elementary-age students.

“This isn’t just unique to Children’s Learning Center,” Teboda said. “It’s in our community and throughout the state of Illinois. There’s a shortage of teachers.”

She does, however, cherish her daily interactions not just at CLC, but in the community, where she constantly runs into folks who are eager to share fond memories, she said.

“No matter where I go, I’ll inevitably run into someone I’ve known through my dealing with the Children’s Learning Center,” Teboda said.

IF YOU GO

The Children’s Learning Center will celebrate its 50th birthday at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the parking lot outside the business, at 905 S. Fourth St., DeKalb. For more information, call Executive Director Nancy Teboda at 815-756-3506, or find Children’s Learning Center on Facebook.

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