2023 Early Educator of the Year, center-based, Award Honoree
Co-Sponsored by DCAEYC
When Director Patricia Bodrick was covering for one of her teachers at First Rock Child Development Center, she taught a baby in the class how to play patty cake. Now whenever that little girl sees Bodrick, she claps in excitement, ready for another round. That baby girl is just one of thousands of children in the District whose lives Bodrick has helped to shape over four decades as an early childhood educator.
Not to mention the children and grandchildren she’s raised on her own as a single parent. Bodrick has two surviving adult children. When her daughter died, Bodrick served as mom to her four children–the youngest of whom is now a college sophomore. When parents at First Rock needed respite during tough times, Bodrick would invite their children to stay with her for a night or a weekend. In 2012, she adopted a three-year-old boy who was enrolled at First Rock, after his mother was no longer able to care for him and asked Bodrick if she would look after him. And she’s volunteered as a Girl Scout leader for years.
A native Washingtonian, Bodrick always knew she would choose a profession that would enable her to care for others. She studied both education and nursing, and for a while worked as an educator by day and a nurse at night. After her children were born, the joy she found volunteering in their classrooms convinced her to pursue teaching full-time. Bodrick worked in a few different early education settings before taking a position as a teacher’s aide at First Rock in 1989. She was quickly promoted to teacher, and served in that role for many years. While working primarily with two- to four-year-olds and in the center’s before care and after care programs, Bodrick earned her child development associate credential, her associate’s degree, and her director credential. She is continuing to work toward her bachelor’s degree. In 2012, Bodrick was named acting director and then permanent director of First Rock Child Development Center.
As the center celebrates its 40th anniversary, and Bodrick celebrates her 35th year there, she shows no signs of slowing down. “I’ll keep working as long as I can,” she explained. “It’s my passion and a gift for me to reach out and help others.”
Seeing children grow and develop from babies into children ready for kindergarten continues to motivate Bodrick, as well as seeing those children come back as parents, enrolling their own children so the next generation can receive the same nurturing that Bodrick provided them. While children come and go, challenges and special needs remain. “You need patience to deal with children with challenging behaviors,” Bodrick said. “We have children with so many different needs. I show the staff how to work one-on-one with the children.” While techniques can be taught, “having a loving, caring, open heart and a passion for nurturing,” are necessary requirements for successful early educators.
When Bodrick was in first grade, she had a teacher–Ms. Charles–who changed her life. Ms. Charles always made everyone in the class feel welcome, making sure they knew they were an important part of the class. Whatever abilities or skills students had or hadn’t developed yet, Ms. Charles treated them all with respect and required their classmates to do the same. That commitment to compassion and equity stuck with Bodrick her whole life, and has inspired her to bring that attitude toward her own work as an educator.
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