Spotlight Series: Jodi Owcarski

What are your clearest memories of your kindergarten teacher and classmates? Experiences early in life critically impact brain development for learning, relationships, behavior and health. Kindergarten is a milestone that has inspired us to ask parents, teachers, champions and donors to reflect on their own memories of kindergarten. Made possible by the Howard Miller Clock Company, the Gift of Time Spotlight Series helps tell a story about what’s possible in a community that elevates early learning and advances potential. 


Posted on February 25, 2019 by Kate Flynn

“This was my school picture my kindergarten year.  Gotta love the 70’s :) 

This was 1975 and was at Waukazoo Elementary school. My teacher, Fran Baron, continued to send me supportive notes through high school when she would hear of my accomplishments.  Back then, Waukazoo only had kindergarten and fourth and fifth grades. I remember being an oddity because I was one of two kids in kindergarten that could read. They had the two of us stand in front of the fifth grade classrooms and read to the kids.

I can still imagine the smell from the classroom —a mix of milk, graham crackers and tempera paint. The best days included getting to watch the letter people… Mr M, munching mouth, Mr H, Horrible Hair, and Mr T,Tall Teeth, were my absolute favorites!”

- Jodi Owczarski

Q: Do you have a favorite children's book? Literary character?

My favorite book to read with my girls was “Tacky the Penguin” Helen Lester.  This book celebrated being different showing that sometimes being perfect isn’t perfect after all.  I think my girls could repeat the entire book, word for word, using the same funny voices I would use when I read the book.  I think we read it approximately 4.2 million times.

Q: What’s an important life lesson or a piece of advice you’d share with your five-year-old self?

Think Big!  Be Great!  Don’t let the expectations that others have for you limit what you accomplish.  You can do anything you set your mind to!

Q: What is something you loved about living where you did as a young child?

We had a neighborhood full of kids that were similar in age to me and my siblings.  We were outside on bikes, playing games, building forts, creating villages, making up gymnastic routines, and just laughing all the time.  We were able to be creative and active and just be kids!

Q: What do you love about living here now?

West Michigan continues to be an incredible place to live, work and play.  Our girls were able to have a childhood very, very similar to my own as they were growing up.  The business community is thriving with broad range of career opportunities available. And the natural beauty and outdoor activities present are phenomenal.  We live in a truly unique and beautiful place!

Q: What makes kindergarten readiness a community issue?

Having healthy, productive adults in our community in the future requires investing in children today.  The first five years of life are crucial developmentally.  When kids don’t receive the education and guidance that they need during this period of time, it’s extremely difficult to ever catch up.  When the community comes together to make sure that every child has the opportunity to start school ready, we will reap the rewards at a personal level for the child and on an economic level as a community.  It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.   

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