Gretchen Corbin, a preschool teacher in our community, genuinely cares about kids and has a passion for helping them reach their true potential. She not only does this through her teaching position, but also by serving as a volunteer at several children’s outreach programs.
Since receiving her bachelor’s degree in teaching from Seattle Pacific University in 1993, she has dedicated her life to teaching younger generations. In college, Gretchen considered becoming a doctor, “maybe sports medicine or pediatrics”, she shares. But she soon discovered her passion was teaching, “in particular, people shorter than me!” she jokingly states.
For nearly 12 years, Gretchen has been a teacher at Charis Kids Preschool in Cannon Beach. She has always loved children. In fact, her parents were teachers. “My love of teaching comes pretty naturally,” Gretchen states.
“I was blessed with parents and teachers who loved, supported, and encouraged me through lots of trials growing up, and who never gave up on me (at least not yet),” Gretchen adds, smiling.
Her passion for kids goes beyond teaching in a classroom, however. She also volunteers for several kid-centered organizations, where she passes her wisdom on in other ways.
WyldLife is a Young Life program focusing on middle school kids. Gretchen volunteers as a Club and Camp leader. “I’ve learned when a child is struggling at any age and finds there is even one adult who truly believes in them, they recognize they are valuable,” Gretchen says. “That’s when they develop hope and their security and confidence grows. They also realize their situation may not be the way it should be, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.”
Food 4 Kids is a program that delivers backpacks filled with food to elementary and middle school children in the Seaside School District and has been in operation since April 2011. The backpacks, typically packed, organized and delivered to kids on Fridays by a team of volunteers, help keep children fed throughout the weekend when they are not in school. “During the school week, kids have access to free food programs, but not on weekends,” Gretchen says with concern. “Food 4 Kids meets that need.”
Gretchen also volunteers in the North Coast Kids Sunday School Program at North Coast Family Fellowship. In the summer, she teaches Vacation Bible School there as well as at the Lighthouse Christian Church whenever she can. This August will be her first time serving as a counselor/leader at Camp Tadmor for third to fifth grade girls.
“I have always appreciated how honest, open, and free children are – no pretense,” Gretchen says. “It’s refreshing and wonderful to be around these ‘real people’. Their excitement for learning and enthusiasm is contagious!”
As a mother herself, helping out in the schools is important to Gretchen. “I remember always having a maternal instinct, loving babies, and enjoying working with kids. Lots of babysitting and even working as a nanny.”
Gretchen believes life has prepared her for what she does now. “Growing up, I was involved with 4-H (horses), band, gymnastics, dance, ski club and eventually youth group at church in my late teens,” she says. So when an opportunity comes along for helping out in local swimming competitions for the high school swim team, Gretchen jumps right in. She loves to support her son as well as others on the team, giving it her all and cheering them on.
Gretchen also sees this as a way to give kids a break from technology. “This world is quite a tough place for kids. Everything is going so fast and they don’t get a lot of face-to-face contact with people. “Whether it’s a small screen or a big screen, kids are regularly connected to technology,” she explains. “This makes it increasingly difficult for them to connect with others or to even make eye contact. And they don’t realize they are living in their own little world because they get used to being bombarded with stimuli. With technology and social media, they often miss critical family time and the valuable gift of ‘just being.’”
“It seems kids also miss much needed sleep and daily downtime – taking time to unplug and enjoy life’s simple pleasures,” Gretchen adds.
Gretchen also recognizes bullying as a big problem for kids. “Kids need to be in a place where they can be safe while experiencing security, love and value,” she says. “If they are constantly getting picked on and feel they have no purpose, then they may think, ‘what’s the point of even trying?’ That’s where a coach, teacher, or mentor can step in. But they DO have purpose and their hearts are open, teachable, and full of potential.”
Gretchen believes by working with kids, there is a chance to instill hope. Hope of a better world. “And that’s why I do what I do,” Gretchen states. “For the kids. They are a gift and they are our future.”