Triton Alumna Educates Children in the Community for Decades
After receiving a certificate in early childhood education from Triton College in 1983, Reba Wachal has dedicated her life to educating children and supporting the needs of her community. Retiring as Superintendent of Early Childhood programs from the Berwyn Park District in June 2015, her career has spanned decades as she has held many different positions in her field.
Wachal’s first position in early childhood education was as a preschool aide for the North Berwyn Park District almost 32 years ago. She quickly advanced to become a preschool teacher and also worked to develop a pre-kindergarten program for the district. In addition, she worked with the West Suburban Special Recreation Association (WSSRA) to develop a policy to include children with special needs into the early childhood programs at the park district.
During her tenure at the Berwyn Park District, she grew the children’s program exponentially and was responsible for developing a Senior Social program bringing together elderly residents on a monthly basis for lunch and entertainment. In addition, she served for two years as both Superintendent of Early Childhood and Superintendent of Recreation overseeing both the Early Childhood programs and all recreation programming and staff. One of her most cherished contributions during this time was spearheading the campaign to bring The Moving Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial to Berwyn during summer 2014.
Wachal’s contributions to her field have been recognized in 2000 and 2001 through nominations for the Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award. She was also recognized as a Local Autism Hero by Autism Speaks and the Cure Autism Now Foundation.
Now retired, Wachal plans to enjoy spending time with her family.
What have been some obstacles you’ve had to overcome in pursuit of your educational and career goals?
When I decided to pursue my education, my two children were quite young. This was an early personal obstacle but one that proved to have substantial value. During 1995, I fought breast cancer. This was one of the most difficult times in my life and the children in the preschool program were crucial in keeping me focused on the day-to-day tasks at hand rather than allow myself to dwell too long on the arduous process that lay ahead.
The main obstacle in my career has been the lack of value placed on early childhood education. In the last five years, I have witnessed more people understanding the significance of early childhood education which has been such a long awaited triumph.
What have been some sources of inspiration both in your career and in your life?
During my career I have been lucky to have many sources of inspiration. My earliest was Marge Budz, she was crucial in my early days at Triton. She taught me so much about the impact of learning through play and how to encourage children without pushing or forcing them to participate in a project or activity. She taught me to always allow children to create on their own rather than give them an example to copy.
Another source of inspiration has been in seeing my own children succeeding in their education and career goals. My two granddaughters have continued to inspire me with their love of learning and my youngest was part of the last class of Pre-Kindergarten graduates this year as I retired. That was a real pleasure for me to watch her each day as she played and learned under my supervision.
What would you describe as your strong suit?
One of my strengths has been to seek out the shy and introverted children and bring them out of their shells. I love to witness the transformation of a timid student in the beginning of our program that flourishes and ends the year as a confident and determined child.
How has Triton College impacted your life?
Triton has impacted my life in such a positive way. I have been able to achieve so much with my certificate.
What advice would you give someone who would like to pursue a career in your field?
My advice to future preschool teachers would be simply to be the best you can be and always put the children first.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future are to spend as much time as possible with my granddaughters and to travel to Disney, amongst other places.