Nancy Schwider celebrated her retirement as a preschool teacher June 8 with a small party – of 200 people.
“The most important thing to me is remembering all the children and families, and I wanted to invite back many of those children,” Schwider said.
Schwider has worked since 1981 as a master teacher for the part-time preschool programs at the Louise M. Beem Early Childhood Center, housed at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. She will retire at the end of July after finishing the center’s preschool summer camp.
Becoming a teacher was something Schwider had wanted to do since she was a child.
“I knew I was always going to be a teacher because I’d come home from school and play being a teacher,” she said.
In high school, Schwider thought she wanted to teach elementary school students. But after working with preschool-aged children as a Sunday school teacher and swimming lesson instructor, she found herself drawn to teaching that age group instead.
“That was part of the age I was meant to work with, and I had to discover that,” she said.
And for 32 years, Schwider has continued to teach preschoolers, sometimes educating multiple generations of the same family.
Kate Nachtigall of Warrenville was taught by Schwider from 1983 until 1985, and although she doesn’t remember much of her experiences from that time because she was so young, she decided to have her two daughters attend preschool at the center based on her mother’s glowing recommendations.
Schwider visits new students when they’re going to start preschool to help with the transition, and it was during her visit to the Nachtigall family that she discovered she had taught the mother of one of her incoming students.
Nachtigall’s daughter, Grace, graduated from the preschool program in 2012, and Leah just finished preschool this year.
“The kids love Nancy,” Nachtigall said.
Although Schwider’s days of teaching preschool are coming to an end, she plans to continue instructing college students who are studying early childhood education, as she has done for nearly as many years as she has worked with preschoolers.
She also hopes to substitute teach or help with summer camps at the center when she’s needed.
“It’s the families I think I’ll miss the most and seeing children go through the process of growing up,” Schwider said.