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Stories That Shape Us: Jana Ramsey

Monday, 30 August 2021 15:00

NAA's "Stories That Shape Us" series shines a spotlight on the authentic stories and varying career paths of the afterschool profession. Told from the perspectives of NAA members themselves, each story is unique and highlights the differences but also the commonalities of the dedicated professionals serving youth around the country in out-of-school time today.

For Jana Ramsey, working in the out-of-school time space is all about joy.

"It's my goal, always, to bring joy to the staff and students in our program," said Ramsey, the Lead Supervisor for Adventure Club, Parkway - Rockwood Community Education, in St. Louis, Missouri. "By helping to build happy staff, I have the ability to influence their attitude, and their attitude directly impacts the joy before and after school."

As soon as it was legal for Ramsey to work, she was working in childcare.

"My mom owned a daycare and I started working with her the moment I turned 16," Ramsey recalled. "Until I was 18, I couldn't be alone with kids by State guidelines, but by the time I graduated high school, I was training all new staff. Initially, I just liked that I didn't have to work nights or weekends. But pretty quickly, I built relationships with the kids and parents in the program that I never would have been able to do in any other high school job."

Ramsey continued in childcare and found it came natural to her. Once in started college, Ramsey worked daycare before and after her college courses, running her own summer camp in the summers.

"The semester I student taught, I worked at a daycare at 5:30 a.m., went from there to my cooperating classroom, and worked in the theater for work-study in the evenings," said Ramsey, who always thought she wanted to be a theatre teacher and graduated with a certification to teach high school speech and theatre. "However, when I actually considered being in a classroom, I felt nervous and restricted. Instead, I went back to my roots."

Ramsey became the director of a childcare center right out of college.

"In childcare, I could have more control over my curriculum, freedom to connect with and continue whatever activities moves us, and really get to build relationships with the families of my students," she said.

After a couple years as a young director, Ramsey branched out.

"In the year 2000, after answering an actual black and white ad in the newspaper, I started with Rockwood School District as a 24-year-old, fresh-faced young thing," Ramsey said. Her role was to supervise nine of the 19 school-age programs in the District. "I was youthful, confident, energetic and knew way less than I thought I knew. With the exception of my five years of summer camp, I'd primarily done early childhood prior to that."

21 years and tons of growth later, Ramsey is still with the Rockwood School District, and now Parkway, as well.

"While working in this job, I got married, had four children of my own, and learned so much about both developmentally appropriate practice, as well as the struggles of a parent," Ramsey said. "I now oversee four supervisors and together we are responsible for 37 school-age programs before and after school. This is my world. I grew up in it and I love it!"

Ramsey has attended as many NAA conferences as she's been able to, the first being in Utah.

"I was hooked—I'd never experienced anything like it," she said. "The amount of knowledge I could sponge, not just from the presenters and workshops, but from other attendees, blew me away. That very first conference made me realize also that training was something I wanted to do. I've always been a performer, as noted by my theatre background."

Training incorporated Ramsey's theatre background and love of learning and passion for school-age care perfectly.

"I developed a training called, 'Moomba!' where I use theatre games and warm-ups, primarily from my improv experience, and teach school-age professionals how to play them," Ramsey said, noting these games teach students about cooperation, confidence, concentration, imagination and team work. "They learn the core concept of improv, 'yes and ...'—a concept that allows us to take another person's idea, accept it and build on it. We can utilize this concept not just in games, but in life's many needed compromises."

Eventually, Ramsey became not just a member, but also a board member of her State affiliate, the Missouri School Age Care Coalition (MOSAC2).

"I've been a part of numerous conference planning teams as a result of that affiliation," Ramsey said. "Because of my initial experience with NAA in Salt Lake City and the many conferences following in Florida, New Orleans, New York, etc., my love of training has developed and blossomed. I have encouraged quality training be brought directly to our program staff, often presenters that we attended workshops for at an NAA conference."

Ramsey notes the organization has been able to send many of their staff to NAA's annual convention every year.

"It remains the best of the best—a place where the overall experience changes our staff in the best possible way," she said. "They always return refreshed, energized and ready for the next challenge."

To connect to more afterschool professionals around the country, upgrade to an Executive membership today. Look for more "Stories That Shape Us" experiences and perspectives in upcoming enewsletters.

Courtesy of NAA.

 Photo courtesy of Jana Ramsey.