By Taylor Johnson
Laughter and tears surround Sarah Jiskra on a daily basis. Kids running in all directions describe the scene, don’t tell us it’s “normal” at the YMCA Child Development Center in Eau Claire. Jiskra has become an expert at managing chaos.
Jiskra’s family says she has always loved spending time with kids, and her current job is entirely that. She spends hours every day with 2-year-olds. While she admits that the job can definitely be exhausting, she says she has found it’s very rewarding as well.
Jiskra spends a great deal of her time in her classroom teaching the kids ways to communicate, self-help skills, in addition to learning how to share with others and respect one another. Jiskra says the communication skills and caring for the young children are what take the most time and attention during her day. Kids are constantly pulling at her attention from different corners of the room. Jiskra’s strength of patience is constantly tested in the room full of toddlers. The smiles and moments of learning are what keep her going.
While she has only been working at the YMCA for four years, she feels like it has been longer due to everything she has been learning and experiencing over that time. As a newlywed, Jiskra also says it has helped her understand what a responsibility children are.
“There’s so much more to it than you could ever have understood without being around them for such extended periods of time,” Jiskra said, “There’s a lot of patience involved.”
She says the least favorite part of working for the YMCA is definitely how stressful it is. The kids are constantly running in opposite directions. Though she and the other teacher in the 2-year-old room only care for the same 10 kids each day, the nine boys and one girl come with a diverse set of behaviors. Jiskra says each child has his or her own quirks that takes extra attention. After getting lunch together, organizing activities, changing diapers, getting the toddlers down for naps, and more, Jiskra is pretty burnt out after a full day at the Y.
For Jiskra, caring for these kids has been the easiest part. The most difficult part is when it comes to disciplining the kids. As she spends over eight hours with the kids every day, differences in behaviors and listening skills really become apparent.
“Parenting styles definitely come out, even at this age,” noted Jiskra.
Noticing how different children act in different situations has been interesting for Jiskra, but also quite frustrating. Changing one child’s behavior requires not only commitment from Jiskra and her co-teacher, but also the parents. If there isn’t communication between the teachers and caregivers at the Y and the parents, then the learning and behavior of the children often doesn’t make positive progress. Behavior has a domino effect in the classroom. If one child thinks it’s okay to misbehave, then the rest follow.
“They’re much more attentive than you’d expect. They’re always watching what you’re allowing all the other kids to be doing, which makes it extra difficult when it comes to discipline. Many of the kids need different styles of disciplinary action,” said Jiskra.
With conferences coming up, Jiskra is currently preparing how to best tell parents how their child is doing. Explaining how a kid could be doing better behaviorally can be tricky- mostly when the parents don’t agree on where their child should be at in the development process.
Jiskra’s sister, Hannah Prissel, agrees when Jiskra said “’I’ve always admired their little minds.” Prissel continued,“My sister has always loved spending time with kids. She was always the babysitter. It takes a special type of person to do what she does at the Y, and Sarah is that person.”
“ She has a very kind and soft personality, making her very approachable and easy to talk to,” said Wendy Prissel, Sarah Jiskra’s mother.
Jiskra loves time spent around holidays with the Two’s in her classroom, especially Halloween, with it being only the kids’ second time experiencing it.
Reflecting on their own childhood, Jiskra’s sister says her older sister babysat a lot, and could often be found hanging out with the kids during family holidays. Agreeing with her youngest daughter Hannah Prissel, Wendy Prissel says she isn’t surprised by where Jiskra ended up working after her graduation from Chippewa Valley Technical College.
The great atmosphere at the Y is a great place for Jiskra for the time being she says, but Jiskra is definitely open to new experiences in coming years. Still in her early twenties, Jiskra says she is ready to take on whatever new adventure comes her way. Learning and growing through this opportunity at the Y has given Jiskra many experiences to carry her through whatever career path she may take on in the future.