Every morning, Casey Keller wakes up and helps three kids log onto their 9 a.m. Zoom classes. She helps them with school until noon, when they go on their lunch break. In order to get some outside time, they usually have their lunch at a nearby park.
Then, it’s back to class for the kids, and when their school day is over, hers is just getting started. She attends her classes in the afternoon, and after family dinner, goes to meetings and does her homework.
Keller is a junior early childhood education major and a full-time student, but she also has a full-time job as a nanny.
For the past two summers, Keller has nannied for a family in northern Michigan. When they found out she had a remote learning option for the semester, the family offered to give her the job through the school year as well.
“[The mom] was like, ‘Are you sure you want to go back to college where it’s all crazy and not much is going on?’” she said. “[In the summer], we live on a lake, so it’s very outdoors and you’re spending time by the water, so she was kinda sensing my hesitation at going back to being inside in an apartment all the time and put the offer on the table.”
It took a few weeks for Keller to ultimately make her decision, as she knew there would be some pros and cons. On one hand, she would miss out on the social elements of college, like bonding with her roommates. On the other hand, she would get to spend time with the kids she built a special relationship with.
Surprisingly, having a jam-packed schedule was on the pro side.
“I tend to be more productive when I have a lot going on,” Keller said. “When I was in Oxford, all I was doing was sitting around my apartment, and then I still was behind on my classes, so having this structured schedule has allowed me to prioritise and keep everything in focus.”
So she packed her bags and drove almost 400 miles from her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, to Silver Spring, Maryland, where the family lives during the school year. She officially started her job on Monday, Oct. 5.
She says her first week was great, but the biggest challenge was navigating virtual learning with the kids, who are nine, five and three years old.
The five-year-old struggles the most with online school because he has ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, so Keller spends a lot of one-on-one time with him during his school day. As an education major, she sometimes even mutes his teacher and helps him herself because he does better with individual instruction.
The education program at Miami does a lot of field experience, something Keller probably wasn’t going to get if she came to campus this semester. She views virtual learning as something that can help her prepare for her future career as a teacher.
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“Even if we go back to in-person, I feel like … a lot will change in how classrooms are run and how schools are run,” she said. “I’ll hopefully be ahead of that curve because I’ll have that personal experience helping kids through that virtual learning experience.”
She appreciates the opportunity not only because it’s useful for her future career, but also because she really does feel like part of the family. Even in the evenings, when she’s off the clock, she is included in the family dinners.
“Every morning, even though we live together, [the kids] get so excited to see me, and they’re absolutely thrilled that I’m here,” she said.
Keller says the parents have been super helpful, making sure she has everything she needs for school including her own room to use for homework and alone time. She also has her own bathroom.
Oftentimes, Keller will use what little free time she has to take day trips on the weekends or just explore the town. She’s even planned a road trip back to Oxford at the end of the month to visit her friends here.
Overall, Keller knows she made the right choice by going to Maryland to be a full-time nanny on top of taking 16 credit hours.
“At such young ages, [the kids] don’t quite understand what it means to go to college,” she said, “so it’s really great to get to spend this time with them and strengthen those relationships with the family.”