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Joan Rehak and Dee Wellwood together have spent fifty years making the Michigan Difference in early childhood education. These two remarkable women have devoted the majority of their careers to early childhood education. Dee Wellwood is a native Michiganian who has been involved in early childhood programs at the university for 22 years. With her recent move to Administrative Assistant at the University of Michigan North Campus Children’s Center she has been able to take a moment to reflect on her career. “The work that we do here is work that truly gives back. It is demanding work but the reward far outweighs what you could ever give,” says Dee.

Dee says that the university is a great place to teach for a variety of reasons, but it’s the community atmosphere and the diversity of that community that keeps her interested in her job. “Every year, every group of children is different and that is something that I love. What stands out to me is the uniqueness of the children. The diversity creates a new aspect of the job every day that is very enjoyable.” With her a long career in early childhood education, Dee finds that now she gets pleasure out of running into her former students and their families. It is a nice reminder of the hard work and dedication that she has put into her teaching career.

Joan Rehak is another teacher who has been with the university’s Early Childhood Programs for 27 years and still enjoys her career, colleagues and teaching responsibilities. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in American Studies but returned a few years later to pursue her teaching certification after she realized she was very comfortable with children and wanted a job that would support her interests in children and their educational development. Throughout her career, she has worked with a variety of ages but especially enjoyed kindergartners and, along with Dee, taught kindergarten classes in the former University of Michigan Children’s Center (now merged with Northwood Child Development Center in the new North Campus Children’s Center).

Today Joan teaches in the full day preschool program at NCCC. “One of the reasons I love working here is because I can use my creativity. I enjoy thinking of new ways to teach my students and I continue to find that to be a very satisfying part of my job,” says Joan.

Dee and Joan have taken their love for children and developed it into long and rewarding careers at the university. Looking to the future,  both teachers have high hopes for the U-M children’s programs and hope that they continue to grow and remain dedicated to a quality education, while the university continues to support a new generation of educators.

“It is rewarding to see the young teachers start their careers and have the opportunity to be a mentor to them. As I come close to the end of my career, I know I will enjoy the ‘handing off’ experience,” says Dee.

— Danielle Clair