Lead infant teacher goes above and beyond for teen families


Noura Abukhadra

Lead infant teacher Tanya Lovelace pauses during a busy day to sit in a rocking chair in the T.A.P.P.P room. She smiles while watching over the infants playing, sleeping, and greeting their parents at the end of the day.

Taking care of children is no easy job. However, lead T.A.P.P.P. infant teacher Tanya Lovelace makes it look that way. In her sixteen years of working at the Teen Age Pregnancy and Parenting Program, Lovelace has been both the lead toddler teacher and the lead infant teacher. Lovelace has the ability to keep five infants busy and happy at the same time, a skill which she has developed over 30 years of working in early childhood development programs.

“When I went to school, they didn’t have a program set up specifically for early childhood education, whereas now, you can go get a degree in the field,” she explained. Even though Lovelace couldn’t get a degree in early childhood education, she knew that she wanted to work with children from a young age. “I started tutoring kids when I was in the eighth grade. I used to work with third and fourth graders with reading and math and that’s when I decided that [working with kids] was what I wanted to do,” she recalled.  

Lovelace finds her job very rewarding and she enjoys watching the children grow and develop, as well as supporting the parents. While rewarding, she emphasizes that it is necessary to possess certain skills while on the job. “It can get challenging when you have a fussy baby and you just can’t seem to figure out how to calm them or pacify them. The key is to keep trying different things and know that when the baby is crying, they are communicating something to you, unfortunately it’s just not words we understand,” shared Lovelace.

Lovelace also adds that while the infants she works with can’t speak yet, it is important to include activities with singing and and voice fluctuations to allow the babies to develop their motor skills.

“Talking to the children, reading, singing is very important for their literacy and their development, for them to be able to start making sounds. People think, oh babies, they don’t understand, but it’s not about whether or not they understand, it’s the sounds and fluctuations of your voice. You repeat things and enunciate them so that they can hear the different sounds,” Lovelace said.

While caring for the infants in the program is a key part of her role, she also supports the parents in their lives both inside and outside of school. She checks in with parents about their jobs, their home environments, their school work and any of their other concerns on a regular basis.

“To know that the parents feel comfortable enough and safe dropping their kids off here everyday is rewarding. Everyday that they come back reassures to me that they feel comfortable and they know that their child is safe and being taken care of. That to me is a reward in itself,” reasoned Lovelace.

Lovelace’s co-worker and lead toddler teacher Lisa Kemning feels as though it is evident that Lovelace has a passion for what she does. Although it is Kemning’s first year in the T.A.P.P.P. center at South, she explains that her first impression of Lovelace hasn’t changed from the beginning of the school year. “She’s good at what she does and she has a big heart,” said Kemning. She goes on to say that Lovelace has a “great rapport.” 

Lovelace organizes field trips for the parents and children to go on together during school. They went downtown to see the Macy’s winter display, a colorful array of animated puppets. “We did our winter field trip just before winter break. We bundled up kids and put them in strollers and had our baby parade,” recalled Lovelace.

 Although she emphasizes how much she enjoys her job, Lovelace wishes she had the funding to build a playground at South. “If I could change one thing about my job, I would put in an outdoor playground for our kids,” expressed the lead infant teacher. “We have to go use the neighborhood park, which is wonderful, but it would be nice to be able to just go outside our doors and have a playground right here on site,” Lovelace concluded with hope.