Dozens of small children, ranging in age from infants to toddlers, could be seen on Nov. 19 crawling, giggling and playing on the floor at Valley Stream’s Wooden Shoe Nursery School, on the west side of town.
Soon, a group of faculty surrounded the small children and lined them up — some needed to be held — in order to have their photo taken in honor of the school’s 40th anniversary.
Rosemarie Meyer — the owner, director and founder of the school — posed near the children with a smile, while the students grinned and shouted in unison, “Cheese!” as the photographer took the shot.
“Children are my addiction . . . and I can’t be thankful enough for 40 years, because it represents the impact I’ve made on so many kids,” Meyer said. “I didn’t just walk into running my own nursery school . . . I built this.”
In 1979, Meyer took over the building on Hunter Avenue where the private nursery school and daycare center are located. At first she had only seven students, and she served as bus driver, chef and teacher. Soon, though, news of the program spread by word of mouth, and enough children, aged 3 months to pre-kindergarten, enrolled at Wooden Shoe that Meyer could hire a dedicated bus driver and chef.
Now, four decades later, there are roughly 100 students enrolled in the school, with a staff of 40 working from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
For as long as Meyer can remember, she said, teaching and caring for infants and children has been something she enjoyed. As the oldest of four children, she said, her role in the family dynamic was to be a nurturer. By age 12, she was babysitting.
“This is what I was put on earth for . . . this is my purpose in life,” she said. “If I’m having a rough day, any time I hold a baby or sit with a child to make a drawing or talk to them, any pain that I feel melts away.”
In 1973, Meyer earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Stony Brook University. She continued to feel drawn to what she said is her life’s calling — working with children to teach, guide, nurture, and build self-esteem and confidence in them. In her opinion, she said, the educational work she does focuses on one of the most critical stages of child development.
Over the years, Meyer said, she found that her fondest moments at Wooden Shoe were of when she discovered that her former students had found success in their professional lives. She also enjoys the moments when previous students bring their own children to her nursery school. “It’s a gift to see parents’ witness their own children recreating the memories they had in this nursery school,” Meyer said. “My former students have gone on to become accountants, lawyers, doctors, principals, superintendents, nurses and so many other professional careers, and to know that I was a part of setting the foundation of that means so much to me.”
Meyer credits her faculty and staff at Wooden Shoe for helping her to achieve 40 years of success at the school, and both retired and current workers say that the environment she creates at the school is inspiring and nurturing.
“Rosemary cares, and she understands that life happens outside of work,” Nicole Blair, a teacher at the nursery school for over 10 years, said. “Rosemary had a vision to start this school when she was in her 20s, and she conquered and succeeded at pursuing that vision.”
“This is a wonderful environment to work in, and the children bring me joy every day,” said Donna Mungo, who worked as a teacher at the school for 37 years. “This school has become my life, and we have become family.”
“I love children — that’s why I’ve been here this long,” said Theresa Mertens, a teacher for 39 years. “My grandchildren went here and it impacted their lives, because they all graduated from college, got their masters and they are currently in the business world, doing great.”