Imagine Spotlight: Eunae Cho
This week, we’re proud to feature Eunae Cho, who owns a family home child care business in Bellevue and is working with Imagine to become a state-approved trainer.
Eunae Cho has always loved serving others and making people happy. Her first college degree and career were focused on hotel management. But when she became pregnant with her first child, she decided to study the Montessori method of early childhood education, and it changed her life.
LEARNING AND GROWING
Before her son was born, Eunae didn’t have any experience with babies. She had immigrated from South Korea to the United States at age 20, and most of her friends were students without children. Studying early childhood education was a practical way to prepare for motherhood.
“Whenever I learned something, I would bring back the lesson to my home and practice with my baby.”
As she watched her son grow and learned more about child development, Eunae was inspired to change her dream.
STARTING A BUSINESS
While Eunae was working as an intern teacher and finishing her Montessori certificate, she found out she was pregnant with her second child.
She wanted to continue being an educator, but needed to stay home with her son and new baby daughter. Around the same time, she became a legal permanent resident of the United States, which allowed her to start her own business.
When she opened Joyful Journeys Child Care in 2011, she thought it would be temporary, until her children were both in school. But she fell in love with being a family home child care provider. She later earned a bachelor’s in early childhood education from the University of Washington.
Watching the children she cares for learn and grow motivates Eunae. She knows that when she puts effort into teaching them new things, they always respond, and it benefits their families.
“I can see their strengths and their weaknesses to improve. And when I’m filling up their weakness, they start to change. Then their mommy or daddy really sees how they change positively.”
CONNECTING WITH IMAGINE
When Covid lockdowns began in 2020, Eunae faced dramatic changes to her business, like so many other child care providers. She had to let her staff members go, though she continued taking care of a small number of children.
“My children at that time were between 3 and 4 years old, who still need a fundamental care to grow. I needed a grown-up to share what I felt (during) my days with young children and what we reflected.”
She received an email from the Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families with an invitation to become a technical assistant for the Child Care Stabilization Grant through Imagine. She decided it was a good chance to connected with other adults.
“My business is small, so I can learn from different, diverse people and people with diverse backgrounds and different skills.”
BECOMING A TRAINER
While working with CCSG, she met Pauli Owen. When Pauli asked if anyone wanted to become a state-approved trainer, Eunae leapt at the opportunity.
With 13 years of experience running Joyful Journeys and two years as a Montessori teacher, Eunae wanted to share her expert knowledge with other child care providers.
“I know lots of strategies to solve problems, and I have lots of creative ideas for how can I make plans. But the thing is, the area that I really want to grow is adult education.”
Her mentor, Sherri Lee, has helped her learn to communicate effectively with her peers and gain confidence in her training skills. Now that she’s led several trainings, Eunae has learned to love the “different vibe” of each group of students.
“Before I start class, I’m so nervous. But when I see them talking and I can see their faces, I feel really relaxed. I love everything, every moment, because it’s all unique.”
HELPING HER COMMUNITY
In addition to continuing to run Joyful Journeys, Eunae’s new dream is to help people in her community improve their English speaking skills. Half of the families Eunae serves are Korean, like her, and she’s seen how the parents trust and listen to her.
Her experience teaching other adults through Imagine is preparing her for the journey—and she has seen how much Imagine has to offer to others.
Imagine gives child care providers opportunities to learn, communicate, and help each other, she says.
“Imagine is really helping me in a practical way. Imagine is knowledge and practice in real business—and connection.”