As kind words and praise continued for Sherri Griffin, founder of Millersburg Preschool, on Saturday during the preschool's 30th anniversary celebration, she couldn't hold back the tears.
She's dedicated 30 years of her life to children in Mid-Missouri, but she said the pleasure was all hers.
"It has been my greatest joy and I think I should have been paying them to teach their children, instead of them paying me," Griffin said as children approached her with hugs.
The amount of love she receives on a daily basis is a reason she has continued her work as an early childhood educator in Millersburg, Griffin, who is better known as "Miss Sherri," said.
"It's why you teach young children," Griffin said. "They keep alive my sense of wonder and joy and I feel they keep me younger than I am."
When Griffin moved to the area, a former Millersburg childcare center closed its doors, but parents still felt a strong need for pre-kindergarten education. That's when Griffin, who was finishing up her doctorate in childhood development at the University of Missouri, stepped in.
Some of those founding parents were in attendance Saturday, which doubled as the Bunny Breakfast fundraiser. Alumni, ranging from children to adults, also showed in support, including five alums who are parents of current students.
"It's wonderful to see how they've grown and changed. It's very joyful," Griffin said. "It's shown how the community has come together to raise children."
Griffin added that early childhood education is vital for children as it "sets the foundation" for life-long learners.
"They're embracing the joy of learning, exploring and enjoying ... It's so much more than learning the alphabet," Griffin said.
Melanie Czeschin, whose two-year-old son is a Millersburg Preschool student, said her six-year-old daughter's growth is evident because of "Miss Sherri" and her acceptance of children for who they are.
"There's nobody like her ... She's open to children and they know it," Czeschin said.
Griffin was presented with two resolutions from the Missouri House of Representatives recognizing her work and the work of Millersburg Preschool in early childhood education.
Brittany Ruess can be reached at (573) 826-2419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.