Tammy Clapp, Clemmons Methodist pre-school director

Published 9:44 am Tuesday, February 28, 2017

By Jill Osborn

“As soon as I was old enough to be a sister or a cousin, I was always with the babies,” says Tammy Clapp, the Administrator at Clemmons United Methodist Preschool. “I tried to deny it, but I babysat all through high school.” The thought of being a teacher crossed Tammy’s mind. The diligent caregiver liked school and was at the top of her class. Because of her successful test scores, Tammy was told she was too smart to be a teacher. Because of that, Tammy said she went down a winding career path in college. “I chose not to get my North Carolina teaching fellow and went into the designate program at State where they help decide what you want to do.”

Tammy took personality test after test, but each one had the same results — caregiver. The young student decided to major in psychology with a concentration in childhood development. She also minored in history. Perhaps, she could teach history to middle school students. To try it out, Tammy worked at a middle school in Wake County near N.C. State. “It was a red flag,” Tammy notes about the experience. “Middle school students were not for me. They don’t like to be loved on and they like sarcasm. That is not really me.”

Finally, being true to herself, Tammy decided to pursue a masters in teaching at Queens University. There, she flourished. “Once I got to Queens, there was no doubt I wanted to teach young children. Learning about the way young kids learn and how these little people’s brains work the way they do — so I lived at home with my parents, student taught, and then moved back to Raleigh.”

Raleigh, was where her husband, Jay, resided. Jay had been Tammy’s high school sweetheart. The two went to State together and now they were ready to start a family together. After Tammy had been teaching kindergarten in Raleigh for a couple of years, their daughter Baylee was born. Tammy decided to stay home to be with her new baby.

When Baylee was two years-old, the rug was pulled out from underneath Tammy’s feet. Her dad died unexpectedly. As a daughter who was close to her father, the blow was tough on Tammy. “I got a lot of my work ethic from him,” says Tammy. “I knew I was born a caretaker, but I think when my dad died, it made me even more of a caretaker. When you love someone unconditionally — it just hurts he doesn’t get to see all these things here on earth.”

While it was hard for Tammy knowing her father wouldn’t be able to share in the joy of Baylee growing up, she was eager to give her daughter the best education possible. So when her husband was transferred to Winston-Salem, Tammy was excited to find a new home in Clemmons. Baylee was now three and began school at Clemmons United Methodist Preschool. The director at the time found out about Tammy’s extensive background in education. Tammy was asked to join the preschool as a teacher. Tammy accepted.

As the years went on, Tammy continued to shine and was eventually asked to become the Administrator of the entire preschool. The caregiver has tried to lead the school in a positive and spiritual manner. “The first thing I did was shift our focus. I wanted to let people know this was a ministry of Clemmons United Methodist Church. Children come in the building, they are loved, cared for, they know their self worth — they are children of God. I believe if you follow these values, the education naturally comes.” Tammy chose her staff accordingly. Bobbi Newsome is Tammy’s co-pilot. “I couldn’t do it without Bobbi.” Another important person is Kathy Giff, in charge of Children’s Ministries at the church. “Kathy sets a superior example.” Tammy tries do the same.

“If you come to me and say, I have to work, can you take my kid on these days — by golly we are going to try to make it work. I believe in grace. God gave us grace. If He gives grace, then we need to give that to everyone else. I tell teachers everyday, you don’t know what these people are going through or what they went through on the way to school. Give grace to each other. Give grace to the families. Give grace to the children.”

Currently, Clemmons United Methodist Preschool has approximately 235 children and will likely have 250 next year. The parents of each child will see Tammy playing on the floor with the kids, asking them questions, and rarely see her in the office. She knows every child’s name and every child’s birth month. “I cannot tell you the exact day, but I know each birth month, because birthdays are very important at this age. I feel like we take a personal interest in every child. Maybe that sounds cliché but it is obviously what I believe.”

Tammy also believes in the importance of giving back to the community. She has a program called, Kids Helping Kids. For this, kids will take field trips to the food pantry or gather can goods. “I feel like it makes you more of a family when you include the staff, the teacher, the students, the children. Plus, we are able to give back to Clemmons and we just love Clemmons unconditionally.”

Our neighbor of the Village of Clemmons believes God put her on earth to be around the children. Tammy says she receives intrinsic rewards by being around these enquiring young minds. “I think it is because they are so fresh and so true. Something about how trusting they are. At this young age, they are looking for someone to lead them in the right direction. They totally completely love you and trust you. I can show them love. I can show them what the world is about. It’s not how smart can I make them, it is if I can make them good people and show them how much good there is in the world. Everyday it just amazes me.”

Tammy’s daughter is now a sophomore at West. She is amazed with Baylee’s natural gift with young children. However, she hopes Baylee is not given advice that will steer her from whatever it is that Baylee seems inclined to do Tammy says, “What I never want anyone to ever say to her is she is too smart to be a teacher. She is taking AP courses, but whatever her passion is, I want her to go for it. I don’t want her to second guess it.” And neither should we.

“Your Neighbor” is a feature by Jill Osborn. If you have a neighbor everybody should know, reach Jill at jill.n.osborn@gmail.com. Also follow her blog on parenting at MuchAdoAboutMothering.com/