“It’s a good day when everyone comes back from the walk with their shoes.”
Remember that pearl of wisdom from this 27-year-old daycare teacher the next time you miss the train or forget to charge your phone. The youngest of her five siblings, Maryam Rodriguez claims she doesn’t remember much from the time when she was four-going-on-five, the same age as her twelve active “helpers.”
“It’s weird because, at this age, they notice everything. I mean, we’ll come back from the park, and they’ll be all excited asking, ‘Oh my gosh, did you see this thing? Did you see that person?’
“And sometimes, honestly, I think they make up some of it. I was on the walk, too, you know,” she laughs. “I just love their imaginations.”Maryam capitalizes on her preschoolers’ active minds and energy by guiding the children in daily art activities. She learned a lot about what kids like and what they can do from plenty of time spent watching three of her nieces and nephews and volunteering at a local daycare during high school. “All children can do art. I have fun finding project ideas and gathering materials and then seeing what they come up with. I’m really proud of them.”
Starting her days at 6:20 a.m., the Coney Island native catch a northbound train to arrive at the daycare in time to wipe down the tables with bleach, put out the toys, and get breakfast trays set up. She and the class’s head teacher consult about the day ahead before the doors open at 8:25 a.m. and the children tumble in, a colorful tangle of coats and backpacks, brimming with stories that allegedly occurred in the hours since they last hugged their teachers goodbye. The days are arranged in a familiar rhythm from Circle Time to Science Center to Art Center to Block Center to Math Center punctuated intermittently with Bathroom Time and Lunch Time and Play Time and Nap Time. (“We look forward to the breaks, not gonna lie!” she says.)
At Guttman, Maryam completed her Liberal Arts and Sciences degree in January of 2018. She continued her studies at Lehman College, earning a B.A. in Health Services in 2021, which she says gives her an appreciation for all the details that go into running a daycare licensed by the NYC Department of Health. “I’m really interested in how it’s all organized, the measures we take for safety and communicating with the parents, how the business side of it runs so we can best care for the children and help them learn.”
Keeping her eyes on all facets of running a successful daycare has been valuable in moving toward her ultimate dream of opening a multi-generational health clinic. “I love children, yet I can equally see myself working in a nursing home— ideally, a place that offers all kinds of services for the community.” With her training, she could handle billing, or with her experience, could organize and manage programs, she points out.
“Life moves so fast,” Maryam sighs. “I’m grateful to have a job, to help my Mom out, to spend time with my friends, to draw, and to journal.” Like her dozen wide-eyed preschoolers, Maryam is open to all the experiences she has along the way.