A woman with long blonde hair wearing a dark gray vest with a UCS logo on it stands against a building with a column made out of large building blocks that spell SPRING.

Meet Tammy Gosley: Lead Teacher at Head Start/Early Head Start of Bennington County

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Tammy Gosley, Lead Teacher at Head Start/Early Head Start, believes that every day and every moment is a learning opportunity. School is a sacred place where children are cherished, and even play is a chance to make important impressions on growing minds. She knows that the best teachers recognize that they are also learners. After 23 years supporting Bennington County’s youngest at United Counseling Service (UCS), Tammy thrives in expecting the unexpected.

“At any moment, things can change, but I actually love that,” says Tammy. “That’s what I love about my job—You never know what’s going to happen.”

Every day is different for a teacher at Head Start/Early Head Start, depending on the needs of children in their care, adapting to new challenges in a post-COVID landscape, and discovering learning opportunities in everyday happenings. Though many struggles that young children face remain consistent over the years, the increase in mental health issues in the Bennington community create an additional challenge that Head Start teachers rise to meet.

“No two children are the same,” says Tammy, “but I see a lot of the same issues right now—shyness, anger, and anxiety. Sometimes there’s something going on at home, and they’re trying to make sense of it, or their feelings about it. One of the biggest parts of my job is to know the family dynamics and what’s going on with families.”

The beginning of each school day at the Spring Center in Bennington, VT, where Tammy teaches, is dedicated to “first hour needs”, which includes checking in with each child, assessing anything that might be going on at home when they arrive tired or upset, brushing their teeth, and taking care of anything else that children need to get their day started in a positive direction. Once the day gets going, Tammy leads a morning ritual called “circle”, which jump starts each day with fun songs, puppets, and other learning activities. Students then participate in small group activities, arts and crafts, and plenty of play outside—all opportunities for learning important social-emotional skills. Tammy takes advantage of the many teaching moments that show up throughout the day. She recently led the children on a walk and stopped to view a spider that had spun a web in a door casing. The children jumped back at first, but then Tammy showed them the spider preparing a meal near the bottom of the web. The children were immediately interested in learning how spiders take care of themselves.

Tammy’s goal as a teacher is for children to believe that school is a safe place where teachers are happy to see them, and where everyone is a learner. “I’m shaping their ideas of what school is,” says Tammy. “I want them to have in their minds that school is a place where they are cherished, where they are learners, and where they are teachers as well.”

Outside of her job as Lead Teacher, Tammy tends to her multiple vegetable and flower gardens and enjoys working out at her local gym. She takes yoga, kick boxing and weightlifting classes, which give her a feeling of accomplishment on both the good workdays and the challenging ones. A big part of Tammy’s life centers around her three sons—one a civil engineer in Virginia, another serving in the Army and stationed in South Korea, and her middle son who travels as a prop master with theater companies. He’s currently working on the set of Tina—the Tina Turner Musical. All three of her sons attended Head Start, which is how Tammy’s story at UCS started. First as a parent, then hired as a cook for Head Start, she started substitute teaching and became an Assistant Teacher. She worked under now Assistant Director of Early Childhood Services, Rebecca Bishop Ware, who was then a Lead Teacher. Rebecca supported Tammy in pursuing her education. “Working under Rebecca and having her push me to go back to school made me feel really confident in my position.”

Years later, Tammy continues to feel supported by her team. “Managers at UCS want us to learn and grow just as much as they want the children to learn and grow,” says Tammy. “UCS and Head Start feel like the same place—it feels like a big family.”

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