The Secret of This Park Site’s Success

Nancy Jagielski thinks the hardest part about teaching Safe Sitter® is getting kids to open up and not be afraid to ask questions.

“I always try to let them know right at the start of class that there are no dumb questions when it comes to taking care of children,” said Nancy, who teaches Safe Sitter® for Wauconda Park District and three other park districts in Illinois.  Since becoming a Safe Sitter®  teaching site in 2012, Wauconda has taught over 600 students so it’s definitely doing something very right!

What’s their secret? Well, Nancy believes it has to do with the relaxed atmosphere of parks and the characteristically fun-loving nature of park professionals.

“Anyone who works for a park district has to have a little of Peter Pan in them. You have to sometimes act a little silly and be able to make fun of yourself in order for kids to relate to you,” said Nancy, admitting this quality is probably the best asset park employees have.

“We take our jobs seriously, but we’re not afraid to throw in a little fun,” she said, adding that working for a park district also makes promoting classes in the community very easy. Brochures listing all programs go out at least three times a year which means parks reach multiple age groups.

“I have had grandmothers sign up their grandchildren for the class because they saw it in our brochure and thought it would be a good class for them to take,” said Nancy, who often shares her own experiences watching her grandson with her students as well as some of the more unusual things that happened when her daughter babysat. “It makes it seem more real to the students,” she said.

And, sometimes, like many Instructors, she can be really surprised by her own experiences in the classroom. She recalls an especially memorable class of seven students, where only one was a girl.

“I have had many boys in my classes but never this many and I wasn’t sure how this class would go. It turned out to be one of my best classes.  The boys asked very relevant questions and were very eager to learn―without some of the giggling you get with a room full of girls,” said Nancy, who finds that, on the whole, most of her classes fill.

“I have learned over the years when the best and worst times are to schedule classes,” she says.  And although she’s has been teaching Safe Sitter® for a little more than two years, she taught another babysitting class for 11 years before switching to Safe Sitter®.

“[It] was fairly new in our area and, after checking with other park districts and getting their feedback, we decided we liked what we heard. Safe Sitter® just seemed to be more kid friendly,” said Nancy.

Jennifer Seward

Jennifer Seward

Jennifer has an M.A. in English and years of nonprofit experience. As a writer and former newspaper reporter, she gravitated toward the nonprofit world because she enjoys the vast and inspiring storytelling opportunities found there.
Jennifer Seward