At the end of this school year, Cara Forward, who teaches 3s at Curiosity Corner Preschool will leave her role at the school. She has been teaching there for 15 years; her first class there will be graduating from high school this year.
A Love of Teaching
Forward and her family have lived in the Lowell/Ada area for 25 years. She and her husband, Jason, have been married for 27 years. The two have three children – ages 22, 21, and 18.
“All of my life I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to work with children,” says Forward. She earned an Early Childhood Education degree from Grand Rapids Community College. She taught preschool for four years before becoming a nanny until taking time off from work to raise her own children.
Like many starting to raise a family, Forward realized she didn’t know anyone in the community. She heard about Toddlers on Track for School (TOTS), a group for families with children from birth to beginning school age. Forward attended weekly groups as a way to get to know other moms. Over the course of a few years she grew close to other families. When her oldest daughter was turning four, she attended Curiosity Corner in its inaugural year under the direction of Kathy Cole. The following year, her middle child attended the 4s program.
Due to the preschool being parent participation, Forward was able to help in her childrens’ classrooms. She also subbed as a teacher when there was a need. When her youngest was three, Forward was asked if she would be interested in teaching a 3s class. She started off teaching two mornings a week. In addition to teaching she also led TOTS classes in Alto teaching kids’ cooking, art, and music. She has also subbed in elementary classrooms at Bushnell Elementary School, including art and music.
Over the years Forward has taught in three buildings – Runciman, Bushnell, and currently at the Yeiter Learning Center. Typically she has had two sections of 3s each morning, although some years she has had an afternoon class.
Throughout her 15 years teaching preschool she has been able to have multiple children from one family come through her classroom. This year she is teaching the fourth child of the Henige family. “Not everyone can say that they have had a job that they truly loved, but I can. When I look at each child past and present, I hope they feel how much I care about them and enjoy having them in my class,” Forward comments.
Thankful for Parents, Students, and Fellow Teachers
Forward is thankful for everyone she has crossed paths with over the years, including students, parents, and fellow teachers. A few years ago the preschool program switched using parent participation to student aids in the classrooms. During the years when parents were asked to help in the classroom each day, Forward got to know many parents and grandparents.
“I must admit that I really miss the relationship I formed with the moms, dads, and grandparents when they helped in my classroom. To you all, thank you for letting me be a part of your lives. You will never know how much you impacted my life,” says Forward. “To my former students, you challenged me, made me laugh with your sweet and funny stories, you made me cry as you overcame challenges or learned something new. To my students who kept me up at night thinking of new ways to help you learn, I want you to know that I love you! You have brought me so much joy. I think of you often and you have a place in my heart forever.”
Throughout her time at Curiosity Corner Preschool, Forward has worked with a great team. She says they have become like family and she has even taught some of their children. “We all care about each other, make meals for each other, socialize outside of preschool and are great friends who lift each other up and care about each other,” she comments.
The feeling is mutual. Kathy Burch has been the Director at Curiosity Corner Preschool and the TOTS program for six years. When Burch started it was Forward she relied on when there were questions about the program to where things were located. She also says that Forward was meant to teach, having patience and bringing a positive attitude to every situation.
“I could not have asked for a more dedicated teacher, to not only the children, but to me and the programs. I think I will miss Cara’s love for children and their families the most,” says Burch. “Each child that has entered Cara’s classroom over the years, has left it knowing that they have a special place in her heart. Cara always made sure each child felt loved and cared for.”
Starting a New Chapter
As the final pages in this chapter for Forward are written, she will look back at the time she has spent teaching preschool children. She has touched the lives of many has been touched by those same people. If anyone she knows sees her in Meijer she encourages everyone to stop and chat.
Forward’s youngest child will be graduating from Lowell High School this month. Two years ago she and her husband became guardians of four additional children ranging in ages from 12-19. Two of them are former students. She will continue to nurture others even if it’s not in a classroom setting.
She closes with, “I have been blessed to live and work in such an amazing community with incredible co-workers. I know I will miss the children, the hugs, the runny noses, the laughter and smiles when they did incredible. Kids and families are my passion, I know whatever I do in the future, it will always be for them.”
Over the years the Curiosity Corner Preschool has changed, but its mission has remained. When Burch stepped in as Director there were a total of 90 students enrolled in 3s and 4s programs as well as 60 participants in TOTS programming. Currently those numbers are 160 and 100 respectively. The tagline often used is “In the end, it’s a good beginning that counts!!” For more information about the preschool and TOTS, visit this website.
This photo gallery shows some memories Cara Forward has had over the years.
Photos courtesy of Cara Forward and Kathy Burch and used with permission.