News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Selig nurtures preschoolers for SPRD

The smile on Valerie Selig’s face as she talks about her three- and four-year-old Grasshoppers in the Sisters Park & Recreation District preschool program speaks volumes about her, her work, and the children.

“It’s not really work, and they pay me for it!” Selig said. “It is what I love.”

A naturalized U. S. citizen who was born and raised outside of London, England, Selig graduated from college in England, trained to work in children’s residential homes. She quit her first job to spend three months traveling in the U. S. and Australia. Returning home, she got what she thought would be a temporary job at Christmastime at Zale’s Jewelers, where she stayed for five years.

In 1985, Selig transferred with Zale’s to work in the states for two years. The two years became five, and she met her future husband, Guy, never returning home permanently to England. They have visited, as Selig still has a long-time friend there as well as two brothers and their families.

“I have never regretted it,” offered Selig. “I have no desire to go back.”

With their young son, Aaron, they were living in the Bay Area in California and Selig used her early childhood education to start a co-op preschool for the local parks and recreation district, a position she had for seven years.

After visiting a friend who lived in the Spokane Valley, Guy and Valerie decided to leave California. They investigated towns in several different states and with a stay at the local KOA campground, they fell in love with Sisters. It was 2006 when they went home, quit their jobs, sold their home, and moved to Sisters.

Aaron entered the seventh grade at Sisters Middle School. He is now 25 years old, working in Grand Junction, Colorado, for the Bureau of Land Management. Selig attributes that career choice to Aaron’s participation in the IEE program at the high school. She said he participated in a number of the programs at SPRD including camps, skiing, and the after-school programs.

Guy worked for the Sisters School District in all three schools for 12 years, as a subcontractor for maintenance at SPRD, and now works at The Lodge in Sisters assisted-living facility doing “whatever needs to be done.”

Upon first arriving in Central Oregon, Selig had a fun year working in a private Bend preschool which “was very different from the co-op and had everything I wanted,” Selig said.

She began at Sisters Organization for Activities and Recreation (SOAR) in 2008 in their after-school program and later substituting for the preschool teacher. She also worked for four years as a paraprofessional at the middle school.

When a local preschool closed its doors in 2010, then-SPRD Executive Director Ann Heath gave the green light and SPRD opened up a classroom for a small preschool program with a teacher and aide. Establishing the preschool was a collaborative effort, with parents providing supplies and SPRD the space and personnel.

In 2015, when Megan Pallister left the program, Selig became the director. The program has grown since its start with seven or eight children, to now include 50-plus children and a waiting list. Selig is the head preschool teacher for the Grasshopper program which meets in the SPRD building. The two Dragonfly classes meet in classrooms at the elementary school.

Selig named a number of reasons she loves her job:

“I love being around little kids. They bring joy and excitement as they learn new things. Every day is a good day for them. I have been blessed to have younger brothers and sisters of former students and really knowing the families is very rewarding. We are a little community all with different personalities. They are learning to share as they learn to solve puzzles and other activities on their own.”

Selig is grateful to have the time to be able to spend time with the three- and four-year olds as they learn and grow. She stresses the importance of repetition and consistency when working with young children.

Guy and Valerie live in Squaw Creek Estates. There is some thought about a possible retirement to the Oregon Coast where Guy could indulge his love of fishing. For now, Selig is very happy to be doing what she’s doing.

“SPRD has been supportive of me my whole career here,” she said. “They’re a big part of my world.”


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