How would you like a job where 20 of your biggest fans greet you with warm hugs and constantly tell you, "You're beautiful"? Twenty-four-year-old Mindy Hoffman, the director of Downtown's New Horizon Child Care, 111 Marquette Ave., is not complaining.
At 18, Hoffman was simply looking for a temporary job when she began working at New Horizon -- nobody had warned her that child care would become her passion. She found her teacher's aide position so rewarding that she decided to pursue an Early Childhood Development degree at Rasmussen College. And in just four years, Hoffman went from being a teacher's aide to being a teacher, the assistant director and then director at the age of 22.
Hoffman's day begins at 7:30 a.m. She chats with the children over breakfast. After this daily ritual, though, her flexible schedule allows her to pick and choose her engagements until 4 p.m., when she usually departs for the day.
Rather than hiding in her office, Hoffman strives to maintain meaningful, interactive relationships with all of the children. She said she relishes watching the infants play with mirrors, teaching the toddlers new songs and accompanying the children on a hike to the Farmers' Market.
"I love the flexibility of my job and the wide range of activities," Hoffman said.
Of course, there are also plenty of administrative duties for Hoffman, such as reviewing the daycare's curriculum and tracking payroll.
While Hoffman admitted that some of the these tasks can't compare to the joy of interacting with the children, the bubbly atmosphere of New Horizon never allows her to feel bogged down. At any moment, the sound of squeaky sneakers may alert her that several 4-year-olds are about to yell, "I love you, Mindy!" from the colorful hallway or even bound into her office
and give her a hug.
Of course, taking care of children isn't always about hugs. There are diapers to change, noses to wipe and, of course, the occasional behavioral problem to deal with.
When it comes to dealing with the ups and downs, Hoffman said she enjoys watching her staff develop just as much as seeing the children grow. "It's amazing how the teachers learn from the children and handle behavioral problems differently over time," Hoffman explained.
For example, teachers learn how to listen to the children and understand why the bad behavior arises, rather than just punishing them immediately.
At the end of the day, it's not all about curriculum development or behavior modification strategies. It's about playing a positive role in the community (Downtown's New Horizon Child Care has decided to participate in a national program to provide four hours of free daycare for called-up National Guard and Reserve members) and letting children be children. Said Hoffman, "I just want to make it fun for the kids, make it memorable for them."