After more than 20 years at the Magnolia Community Center, Micheline Huber is leaving for other things.
Huber has been teaching aerobics and been director of the Tun O Fun children’s day-care program at the community center (2550 34th Ave. W.) for two decades. In the coming weeks, she’ll leave to fulfill a promise she made years ago: to take care of her daughter’s new baby — her first grandchild.
“We’re very excited,” she said. “My leaving had nothing to do with the fact that I wanted to retire. That’s something I said I was going to do and I want to do. It will be fun to see one more child grow up.”
‘The School of Life’
Huber grew up speaking French in Quebec. She first came to Seattle in the ‘70s and opened her own day care shortly after she arrived. During that time, she also taught aerobics. Huber and her family moved quite a bit, following her husband as he traveled for work. They spent time in Ottawa, Los Angeles and Hawaii before returning to Seattle in the ‘80s. Huber took the job as the director for the Tun O Fun program in 1993. In 2008, the program split between preschool and after-school care, and she’s been the after-school director since then. Huber estimates she’s worked with more than 500 kids over the years.
Huber’s goal is to do things with the children that their parents would do if they were not working. So they do a lot of arts and crafts, games, sports, cooking, knitting and dance.
Children are children, and they always want to play games or play in the center’s gym. But they’ve also changed since she first started the program. One of the biggest changes has come with technology. The program used to have computers for the children to use, but they took those away because the children have enough of that at home, Huber said. Instead, they focus on interactivity and social skills.
“I call ourselves ‘the School of Life,’” Huber said. “[The children] are going to be in life, so we try to teach them these skills to be successful later on, to give them self-esteem and give them the tools.”
Huber recognizes that she’s been a big part of these children’s lives over the years. Sometimes, she spends five or six hours a day with them. “We’re really surrogate parents,” she said.
Her favorite part of the job has been getting to know all of the children and be a part of the community. She loves Magnolia because it’s a community where everyone knows each other.
One of the biggest challenges of working in child care has been staff turnover, Huber said. The school often has great staff, but they leave fairly quickly for higher-paying jobs.
“My biggest wish would be that this profession would be considered more part of the education system and then be maybe paid better,” she said.
Huber has always lived an active lifestyle, from dancing with a school dance troupe that performed at the 1967 Olympics opening ceremonies in Montreal and skiing competitively in college for Montreal University, to teaching skiing at Our Lady of Fatima (3301 W. Dravus St.) from 1989 to 2003.
And she’s been teaching aerobics twice a week since 1989 at the community center. She also teaches twice a week at the Queen Anne Community Center (1901 First Ave. W.). Huber calls the seniors in her aerobics class “my other kids.” She will continue to teach these classes.
The group loves to dance. They do weights and floor stretches because they’re important, but their favorite part is good music and dancing. Huber also incorporates dance into the kids’ program, from Irish dancing to Gangnam Style.
The seniors inspire Huber to keep moving. Some seniors have come and gone, but others have been there since the beginning. They all have their aches and pains and hardships; some are cancer survivors.
“I always say, ‘Carry On,’” she said. “That’s our favorite song because that’s what we do: make the best of things.”
Bert Hanou, 91, has been taking Huber’s class for more than a year now. He does it to stay healthy, and he likes the way that Huber explains things when she introduces something new to the class. He’s barely missed a class since he’s started.
“I’m sure she’s going to be missed...by the people she works with,” he said.
What the future holds
Huber doesn’t want to call her departure a retirement. And she’s certainly not slowing down. Among her many plans, she wants to: teach French again, take a road trip to the Grand Canyon, follow the Tour De France on her bicycle like she’s done before and teach skiing and snowboarding again. She also wants to start volunteering.
And child care won’t be out of the question. In a couple years, she may consider opening another day care or returning to the Tun O Fun program. This year, though, she’s dedicating to her new grandchild.
People have been sad about her leaving, she said, but they’re happy for her. The community center is throwing a celebration in her honor to mark her departure. Huber likes to think of the event as “au revoir for now.” She hopes all of the children and families who have touched her life will attend the event.
“I really feel like this is my home,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to have this job.”
Micheline Huber’s “Au Revoir for Now” party will take place June 3, from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Magnolia Community Center (2550 34th Ave. W.). For more information, email email@example.com.
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