It’s her job to help teach the little ones at the Johnston Health Early Learning Center in Smithfield. But Jennifer Nouaim of Knightdale says she’s often the one who learns something.
“They teach you how to love life,” said Nouaim, who has been a teacher’s assistant the last three years. “Children know what’s most important: family, friends. It’s not the material things that matter most.”
Nouaim, who has worked in child care for 20 years, was recently named a Johnston Health Ambassador. The Ambassador program recognizes employees who go above and beyond the call of duty. Among other things, the honorees receive eight hours of paid time off and a personalized parking sign.
During a presentation, Johnston Health Chief Executive Chuck Elliott said the teacher assistant stands out because of the joy she has for her work. “She performs her job with enthusiasm,” he said. “It’s evident that her focus is to educate and prepare children for their next steps in life.”
Nouaim said she had always wanted to be a child educator. She took classes in child development while in high school and loved it. A few years after graduating, she enrolled at Wake Tech with plans to pursue an associate’s degree in early education. But she put those plans on hold after getting married and having children.
Now she’s back on track to finish her degree at Johnston Community College. This time, she plans to also earn certification to teach special-needs children. She’s gained experience from caring for her younger son, Hamzah, 11, who has special needs. An older son, Michael, recently graduated from Lees-McRae College with degrees in psychology and performing arts.
Helen Patterson, director of the Early Learning Center, said Nouaim stands out because she takes the time to share with parents the achievements of their children. “She also takes the time to celebrate with the children when they accomplish things,” she said.