By Angelica Melara
Local Sibley Day Care staff member and senior at SUNY Plattsburgh, Danielle Criss is a human development, family relations major with a concentration in child care management.
Growing up in the North Country, and attending Plattsburgh High School, Criss discovered a passion for teaching kids. During her high school years, she joined a mentoring program where she mentored middle schoolers. This is where she found out she wanted to pursue education. She later earned her associate degree in adolescent education at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.
Criss had many influences as a child that helped her realize she wanted to be an educator, her father and grandmother being two of them.
When she was younger, Criss struggled with a learning disability, however, her father would sit with her to do assignments and when she got frustrated, her father would help her to calm down, and would tell her to try again. This is when she learned that she shouldn’t be ashamed of her disability, and just needed to advocate for herself to understand what she needed.
“Growing up with a learning disability at first you just think, ‘Well I’m dumb, and I can’t do this’, or ‘Why is this the case for me,’” Criss said. “It definitely made me stronger and more resilient in figuring out this is how I have to handle a situation.”
When she transferred to SUNY Plattsburgh, the faculty of the Student Support Services helped her a lot.
“Between my writing coach, Natasha, my academic adviser Isaac and my testing service coordinator, Laura, I was able to get the services I needed,” Criss said.
She also explained that everyone in the SSS office is very easy to get a hold of and always made sure she was on top of her tasks.
“They gave me little bits of encouragement, but also pushed me to know that I was at school for a reason, and they are here to help me accomplish my goals,” she said.
Laura Cronk, Criss’ testing service coordinator describes Criss as being “Caring and loving.” She also said that Criss is always there for others even when she is going through something herself.
Having helped her so much, Cronk is able to see how generous, empathetic and devoted Criss is. She explained how after her transfer, Criss immediately joined many groups around campus.
Some of the organizations Criss is a part of include the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir, Praise Dance, the Chinese Association and the Korean Association. Something that she said she’ll miss this semester is the Night of Nations, an event held on campus where everyone is invited to celebrate their different backgrounds and cultures.
After transferring to SUNY Plattsburgh in her junior year, she decided to further her studies by switching her major to Early Education.
“Working with little kids is kind of my passion,” Criss said. This is one of the reasons as to why she decided to apply to Sibley Day Care.
Criss’ mother is the one who originally informed her about the job openings at the daycare. With her only experience working with little kids being babysitting when she was younger, she was hesitant to send in her application. However, she sent in the papers and has since been working there for three years.
Something that Criss finds funny about her experience with working at the daycare is that some of her coworkers were her caretakers at the daycare when Criss and her brother originally attended.
“When I got there, it was the same people working there,” Criss said. “It’s been over 10 years, so it’s interesting that the same people that took care of me are still there. They look and act the same.”
Usually, Criss works at the daycare full-time in the summer, and during the school year, will work only one day a week. However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, her work at the daycare has increased. She explained how there has been a push for locals to continue to work throughout the year.
Looking into the future, Criss said she would love to be an infant head teacher and have her own classroom. She has a love for decorating, organization and a Pinterest board of ideas that she’d love to incorporate into a real life classroom.
A difference in her work life is wearing masks each day. Adults at the daycare must always wear masks, and parents are no longer allowed to take their kids to the classrooms. The children are not required to wear masks, but must be dropped off outside of the building where they are escorted by a staff member to their classrooms in order to help stop the spread of the virus. Criss usually works with kids ages one to five, and because little kids are “constantly putting their hand in their mouths or touching each other or sneezing on each other, we try to do the best we can with keeping them clean and keeping the area clean.”
Criss explained that when the kids go down for a nap, the room is disinfected, and once all the children have gone home for the day, the staff members deep clean the room.
There have been many changes in Criss’ life due to COVID-19. When she’s not at the daycare, she is doing her assignments for her in-person classes. She commutes to school each day at six in the morning, but her day gets easier when she visits her father’s office on campus. She’ll occasionally stop by his office for a hug or to get some money for lunch.
Something else that helps her get through the school day is the memory of her late brother Dalton. Having passed away a week before the start of his first freshman semester in the fall of 2019. He was going to study criminal justice with a minor in music.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling thinking we would have been walking the same halls again like primary school,” Criss said.
Criss is a very optimistic person, and is able to see the light in every situation. This is what she does with the memory of her brother. She uses the memory of him as motivation to keep going with her studies. She said that this is what is able to help her keep a smile on her face.