Tiny fingers hold tightly to the hands of teachers as the newly formed ‘walkers’ class at the First Baptist Church Learning Center, in Scottsboro, makes its way down the hall toward the cafeteria.
It is lunchtime, and the smell of cheese quesadillas prepared by the center’s cook, Renay Wright, fills the air. In the background, the voices of toddlers singing and the occasional baby crying filters past the walkers into the office of Heather Calfee.
“We just formed the walkers class this year for babies who are no longer crawling but are still at the age where they are learning to balance,” she said.
Calfee has been the center’s director since 2015.
“I first started here about 20 years ago,” she said. “I taught one-year-olds back then, and eventually started teaching four-year-olds.
“From the time I was a little girl,” she said, “I always wanted to be a momma. My goal was to become a teacher. It’s my heart. I love to be around the children, hug them, hold them and play with them.”
The center currently has 66 children and 13 teachers, divided among seven classrooms that Calfee visits throughout the day.
With a smile, she describes the learning center’s atmosphere as ‘calm chaos,’ at times.
“The kids become like little families in the classrooms because they see each other almost every day, and our teachers are really great,” she said.
Along with the new classroom, the center also added new security cameras, video monitoring and a brand new curriculum in 2016.
“We use the A Beka curriculum now,” she said. “It’s way more structured. There are more activities and intense learning but it’s still fun.”
Besides ABC’s and 123’s, the children at First Baptist Learning Center also learn other important things.
“We plant little seeds to start learning that Jesus loves them,” she said. “As they grow, they learn how He loves them, and protects them, and how He cares for them.”
While it is a faith-based center, First Baptist adheres to guidelines set forth by The Department of Human Resources (DHR.)
“We go by DHR standards,” she said. “That includes everything from how many toys and dolls we should have, to the ratio of how many teachers we have per child.
“We follow schedules,” she continued, “starting with breakfast in the morning and then on through the days’ activities.”
Singing, dancing, Bible stories, painting, coloring and creating are all a part of those activities.
“We work on cognitive and motor skills,” she said. “As they grow up, we prepare them for kindergarten. Not just education-wise; we also try to teach them self-control and how to follow rules.”
Parents are always welcome at the center.
“We have an open-door policy,” she said. “Anytime a parent wants to check on their child, they are more than welcome to do so.”
With the new surveillance equipment, Calfee can also see everything the children are doing throughout the day.
“We have cameras in every room and on all of the doorways,” she said. “Parents can feel safe about their children when they are here. It’s a loving, caring place, and we are happy.”
The center accepts children ages 6 weeks to 4 years old.
For more information about The Learning Center at First Baptist Church of Scottsboro, contact them at: 256-574-1012, or visit them on Facebook.