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Last class at Brandon Co-Op Preschool

Judy Schwartz with some of the Brandon Co-Op preschool. Photo by David Fleet. (click for larger version)
May 16, 2012 - Similar to the past 25 years Judy Schwartz—a.k.a. Miss Judy— assisted her class of Brandon Co-Op Preschool students through graduation.

But unlike other years, this will be Miss Judy's last.

"This has never been a job to me," said Schwartz, who started teaching toddler programs in 1987 and came to the Brandon Co-Op in 1993.

"My sister's son was 4-years-old when he was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma, a rare form of aggressive Non-Hodgkin's (lymphoma) that affects children. He spent a lot of time in the hospital and I spent a lot of time with him. I would tell him what's happening with regard to his treatment. I seemed to get through to him. From that, the doctors and nurses watched me and suggested I work with children. So I did."

Schwartz, a graduate of Our Lady of the Lakes High School, attended Oakland Community College and Oakland University, where she earned a degree in early childhood development. She worked as a legal assistant before starting as a teacher.

"Over the years I've met some nice families and some wonderful students—we're a co-op that's not associated with Brandon Schools. We're tuition-based and require parental assistance. No two families are alike, no two classes are alike. Sometimes the classes are very mechanical—one year they took apart an old vacuum cleaner. They really wanted to know how it worked."

"Many of the children just love to sing—patriotic songs. After 25 years I'm still glad to see the children every morning, they make me smile. I don't get tired of them."

Schwartz said there was a big drop in enrollment about 2006—then another drop in 2008. Each year fewer parents had the time to commit to be part of a co-op preschool. The classes dropped from about 60 students to around 20, she said.

"The state understands that preschool works. When I started there was no Head Start, Great Start Readiness or Michigan School Readiness programs. They raised the income ceiling for families. It's much easier for families to send their children to those programs now."

Schwartz is undecided what she'll do each day now—although preschool teaching may still be in her future.

"It's hard to believe but some of my students are in college now," she added.

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