Early Childhood Center student support facilitator Judy Anderson is known by her peers for her compassion toward students.
The center is a preschool for 4-year-olds and serves mostly disadvantaged children on a first-come basis to help them get a head start on school.
Anderson, who is retired, works part time as the student support facilitator. Before working with ECC, Anderson returned to school at Winthrop University for a Maymester at 63 years old in 2011 to add an endorsement to her teaching certificate.
“I didn’t have any roommates,” Anderson said, laughing. “I thought I would have some, but nobody wanted to room with Grandma.”
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What shocked Anderson most about returning to school was living in a dormitory with boys across the hall.
“I didn’t realize that there were boys next to me, because I wasn’t used to boys being in the dorm,” Anderson said, who mentioned that at the time, she hadn’t lived in a dorm for 40 years.
Anderson said whenever she walked to class, students would stop in the street and stare and ask her if she needed help. Anderson said she knew she was an unusual student because of her age, but adding to her certificate was important to her.
“I didn’t hesitate – I’m not the type to hesitate about things, so I decided I wanted to do that, and I knew that was the only way to do it, so I did it,” Anderson said.
After completing her courses, Anderson became certified as a reading consultant, and although Anderson’s job at ECC is not in teaching because she is retired, she loves being around the children.
Administrator of ECC Jean Powell, who has known Anderson for 25 years, said the job of a student support facilitator is to monitor attendance, immunizations and aid those who need some extra help.
“(She goes) much beyond. Much beyond what is required,” Powell said.
Powell said Anderson will do whatever it takes to help students, and she took one child to their four-year immunization checkup when the parent couldn’t.
“She’s such a hard worker – you just don’t find people like her,” Powell said. “She will open any door in Greenwood, she is not bothered by any neighborhood or anything like that. If it’s to help a child, she will open any door.”
Powell said Anderson will drive students home, check up on them when they’ve been out of school for a few days and do whatever she can for the children. Anderson also has started learning Spanish to help her talk with parents and students from Spanish-speaking countries who don’t speak English.
“Everybody said that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, but I said, ‘You don’t know this dog,’ ” Anderson said.
Anderson has been helping one Venezuelan mother learn English and in return she has been learning Spanish.
“There were so many children here and parents of a Hispanic background, and a lot of them cannot speak it (English),” Anderson said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like if I went somewhere and nobody understood a word I was saying, so I said I’m going to try to do it, and I’ve been trying.”
ECC teacher Annette Blackwell said Anderson cares a lot for her students and peers.
“She’s always available to help us with anything we need as far as if a child is having a bad day. If they need a book bag, somebody to give them a hug; they need some clean clothes – she’s just there for whatever these children need her for,” Blackwell said.
Outside of working at the school, Anderson loves to plant flowers in her free time. She plants them on weekends and after work at the school, her home and anywhere she can. Powell said planting flowers is one way Anderson tries to make the school a place where children want to be.
“I love to plant flowers,” Anderson said. “I think children and flowers go together, and children are a lot like flowers. Some flowers are friendly and open and smiling, and others like the shade, the dark. I just think children and flowers go together.”
At school, Anderson has a closet with extra clothes for children in case they have accidents or need articles of clothes or shoes. She helps step in when parents need an extra hand.
“She’s just like a guardian angel for children, she just does that,” Powell said. “Just over and beyond what anybody else is going to do – just a heart that is too big for herself.”