New CLC director comes full circle

Photo courtesy American Lutheran Church Long time teacher and director of the American Lutheran Church’s Christian Learning Center (CLC) Joyce Borah, left, prepares to turn over the post to Melissa Klinsky Tamminen, a former student who will begin her duties with the new school year.

A life circle that began more than 30 years ago was completed recently, at the American Lutheran Church’s Christian Learning Center.

Long time teacher and director Joyce Borah retired last year, un-retired and will retire from the school once again at the end of this school year. And the woman chosen to take her place beginning with the new school year is a former student of Borah’s.

“I joined the staff as a teacher in 1989,” Borah said this past week, “and became director during the 1991-92 school year.

“And I was a student in 1990!” said Melissa Klinsky-Tamminen, who was recently hired to take over the CLC program upon Borah’s retirement.

“Mrs. Borah and I have maintained a friendly relationship since I returned to Huron several years ago. We’re Facebook friends and have been able to talk about school stuff.”

“Then when COVID struck in 2020 it completely changed things,” Borah said. “We were on the phone talking through what we were going to do. Suddenly, we had no contact with those students.”

They figured a way through the pandemic and went back to work.

Klinsky-Tamminen is a 2005 Huron High School graduate, and her first “grown-up” job was at M&M Daycare, beginning her chosen career of working with young children.

“I worked to get my CDA — a Child Development Associate certificate,” she added. She also worked in the Huron School system as a para-professional.

“Then in 2011, I met Ari (husband Ari Tamminen) and moved to join him in his home, Finland.” The couple was married in 2012. While in Helsinki, the capitol of Finland, Klinsky-Tamminen worked at two different pre-schools in the city.

“I worked at English speaking schools,” she explained. “Many people come to Helsinki from other countries for a short period of time for work,” Klinsky-Tamminen said. “English is the international business language, so they want those kids to get a good handhold on the language to start. We also had Finnish kids, whose parents recognized the benefit of learning English to give their kids a leg up for their life.”

The couple returned to the U.S., settled back in Huron and Klinsky-Tamminen began working at Mount Calvary Lutheran Preschool, as director and teacher, a position she held for seven years until she recognized the opportunity of going to work in the CLC at American Lutheran.

“Mrs. Borah was one of my first teachers,” she recalls, “and four-year-old Melissa just adored her! Looking back, I just remember feeling loved and secure at CLC. She was a natural with kids and getting to know her better as an adult is such a blessing.”

Both stressed the importance of having the students enjoy a positive first experience in the classroom, as it is often their earliest classroom experience. “It’s important to make a good impression and have students bond with their teachers,” Borah said.

Each school year, teachers begin with a new classroom of students and as the year progresses, students learn about themselves and their classmates and teachers learn about the students. “Each student is different,” Klinsky-Tamminen said. “What worked with one class or student before may not work the next time.”

Over the course of a year, a family of sorts is formed in the classroom. “While it is sad to see a class depart, each year brings a new opportunity and a new environment to connect with a different group of kids.”

Klinsky-Tamminen said that one of the best feelings is having a former student come up at the grocery store or the swimming pool and reconnect with her. “I generally have quite a crowd around when we go to the swimming pool!”

Next on the horizon is the spring open house, so parents with students that they may wish to enroll can come in and tour the facilities, as well as meet the new teacher and her assistant, Michelle Lyon.

This year’s open house is set for Monday, March 13, beginning at 5 p.m. at the church. Those unable to make it to the open house may also contact the CLC at 605-352-8514, ext. 2, to enroll their children.

It’s a new experience for the students, and this year, it’s a new experience for the teacher as well, who is excited about the upcoming school year and fitting in with a new family in a new home.

“American Lutheran has been very kind to allow me to come in a couple days a week to learn the ropes at Joyce’s side,” she added.

Circle complete.