For some, career paths are a question; for others, they’re a destiny. University Child Care Center Director Sarah Fike is firmly in the latter category. For her, there was never a question that she would work with children.
“When I was eight, I was asked to write an essay about what I would be doing at 21,” Sarah said. “I wrote that I would be a teacher.”
Indeed, “Ms. Sarah,” as she is known to her students, was teaching by the age of 21. And even before that, her jobs centered on preparing her for the role. She was babysitting at 13 and nannying not long after. The roles came naturally to her–and perhaps just as importantly, they were fun.
“I love young children’s enthusiasm and honesty, and I love how they’re always questioning and soaking up everything around them with no inhibitions,” Sarah said. “I’m fascinated with how they learn, think and speak, and I enjoy helping them develop. That’s why I do what I do.”
When you are that passionate about what you do, it can take you to places and people you never imagined. Originally from the United Kingdom, Sarah came to the U.S. as an au pair nearly 15 years ago. She met her husband while working, married him eight months later, and has called this country home ever since. She says moving here enabled her to pursue her dreams in a way she couldn’t have in the UK.
“I returned to school for my Master’s in Education,” Sarah said. “Here, you can go back to college at any age and study for fun or for a new career! In the U.K. you just get one shot at your chosen field.”
Sarah has now been a teacher for 27 years–eight of them at the Child Care Center. And if her graduates are any indication, she’s made quite an impact during her tenure. She still keeps in touch with the families of students who graduated more than 15 years ago, and has even been invited to weddings! After moving to California, the family of one student came back to visit her on their first return trip to the area more than two years later.
These stories represent the mark of a truly exceptional educator—one who does not only teach, but touches the hearts of her students. It doesn’t come easy. As one of Sarah’s colleagues said, “When she’s not working, she’s working.” In her free time, Sarah contributes to education journals, takes graduate courses and participates in local education organizations. She’s writing a science textbook and is an adjunct for the College of Education and the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences, where she teaches an upper level science and math methods class.
And yet Sarah’s most ambitious work is dedicated to the Child Care Center. After becoming Director last August, she set out to expand family participation in the Center’s programs, create a nature- and arts-based curriculum and design a new nature playscape on the center grounds. She hopes to achieve national accreditation for the Center and reinstate a state-accredited kindergarten.
They’re ambitious goals–especially for a person with two young boys of her own at home–but for Sarah, it’s simply fulfilling the dream she’s had since she was born. I think her 8-year-old self would be proud.
Written by Tyler New