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Linda Groom retires from Hudson Community Children's Center

her Judy Brekke, left, will replace Linda Groom when Groom retires after 30 years of leading the Hudson Community Children's Center. The two women have worked together for the past seven years and believe the transition will be smooth for children and parents.

Linda Groom sat down for an interview about her retirement on a difficult day for all teachers -- the afternoon of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

Groom was sickened by the news but said she and the other teachers at Hudson Community Children's Center would be prepared to deal with any effect the shooting would have on their children.

"As teachers we need to give our students the social and emotional competence to see them through things like this and the everyday issues that come up for them. It is unlikely that children as young as those we serve will know too much about what has happened but it is part of our job every day to teach them self-discipline, how to handle conflict and how to use their words to solve problems."

The Hudson Community Children's Center which is sponsored by the Catholic Charities Bureau, Inc., has been in Hudson since 1969. Groom first joined the staff in 1973 and headed the center until 1991 when she moved with her family to California. When they moved back to Hudson in 2006, she resumed her post. When she retires at the end of this month, she will have spent 30 years on the job.

Groom remembered first coming to work at the center when it occupied the lower level of a church just down the street from their current location at 824 Fourth St. "The floor was so uneven that the children's pencils rolled off the table onto the floor."

The center's "working board" included Al Weitkamp, Carver Davis and Fred Johnson, who all worked to level the floor and keep the space in shape. There were 10 children attending in 1973.

In 2007 the center moved to its current location at the corner of Fourth and Orange streets, a building formerly owned by St. Paul Episcopal Church and later used by the sisters associated with St. Patrick's Church including the late and much loved Sister Bernadette.

"We like to think her spirit is still here, blessing us and keeping us safe."

Today the center is licensed to care for up to 40 children, from infants from six weeks old to age 7. From the beginning, Groom says it has been more than the "babysitting place" people thought it was in the early years. Daily lessons are planned based on the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards that align with Wisconsin's K-12 academic standards that provide early learning opportunities that support the success of children throughout their education.

Groom said much of what they do is play-based and designed to be developmentally appropriate based on a child's age and maturity. "For ages 2-3 it is more about socialization. From ages 4-5 we do more with pre-kindergarten skills. With our infants and toddlers it is more about hugs and holding," said Groom.

Predictably Groom says it is the children she will miss the most when she retires. Because of her long tenure she has seen "my children's children" turn up at the center. "That took a little getting used to at first but I feel blessed to have touched their lives for so long."

If she has any regret, it is that she didn't write down all the wonderful things the children have said over the years. "It is the small things they've said and done that mean the most."

Groom is proud of the success the center has had over the years even as more childcare options and pre-schools have opened in the area. She said it has been primarily through word of mouth that their reputation has been made.

"It has been a great ride. I will miss the children and the staff and the parents. There is a great camaraderie here. That will be hard to leave behind."

Miss Linda as she is called by the children leaves happy, however, knowing that more and more people seem to understand the value of early childhood education. "It isn't about front-loading our kids to read or know their numbers early but preparing them to learn with developmentally appropriate activities at the rate that is right for them."

Groom, who lives in Hastings with her husband who retired last year, has two grown daughters and four grandchildren. She said she will be at home this winter planning what to do next but knows her time will include volunteering and "giving back."

Teacher Judy Brekke who has been at the center for seven years will replace Groom as the center's director.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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