For Bertha Wilkerson teaching her nine 18-month-old children is more a labor of love than a job.

On May 9, she will mark 25 years as a preschool teacher at Cornerstone Christian Preschool in Waxahachie. The 30-year Waxahachie resident has taught that age group throughout her career.

“I love kids and this is the age I started with. I never wanted to change,” Wilkerson said. “I love their little minds – they listen.”

She said she remained at the same facility over the years because the staff really cares about one another and it’s a family. She has no plans to retire.

“I will keep working – I love my job and will work until I can’t work anymore. I love what I do,” she said. “I don’t like to stay at home.”

Preschool director Jackie Settlemyer said “Miss Bertha” is always the first one to arrive in the morning to get set up for the day making everyone’s start easier.

“She always has a smile. The kids love to see Miss Bertha,” Settlemyer said. “Kids need consistency and she is always fair. They always know where they stand with her – what they are doing wrong and what they are doing that’s great.”

Settlemyer said Wilkerson made her own transition as a new staff member much more pleasant and easier. Parents go to her for advice in parenting and she is always there for everyone, she said.

Rhonda Roberts has served as administrative assistant at Advantage Academy, which is attached to the preschool.

“This is one of our favorite ladies. She was my daughter Hayley’s very first teacher,” Roberts said. “To be a mom returning to work – Bertha made the transition easy for me. I knew my family was loved and cared for. Miss Bertha will forever be very important to our family.”

Roberts said Wilkerson is a woman of the highest character and patience.

Wilkerson has raised three daughters of her own: Jessie, Debbie and Latricia. She has two grandchildren: Keisha and Kiedric. Her children come to visit every Sunday and they talk daily.

“My kids say, ‘Mom, you’re not the same person as when we were coming up.’ But times change. I was stricter with my own kids,” she said. “I look at the kids I teach and watch what they do. I’m really strict, but it’s a love thing.”

Her teaching strategy is based on the importance of love and learning to treat others the way you want to be treated. She said the children run to her in the morning and don’t cry when they are dropped off. They have Bible study and verses every day and the kids love to sing.

A former student of Wilkerson’s is Brandi Brown, who teaches 2-year-olds at Advantage Academy.

“I remember her face and my mom talking about her. She was really wonderful,” Brown said.

Co-worker Irene Snell teaches 2-½-year-olds in the classroom adjoining Wilkerson. Snell has been teaching at the facility for 20 years.

“In 25 years, she never misses work. She opens each morning at 5:45 a.m. and she’s a faithful worker – dedicated to her job and the kids,” Snell said. “We are from the old school. We’re here for the kids and we pray for the kids and the parents.”

The preschool is putting together a money tree to present to Wilkerson and will decorate the halls and have a snack luncheon Monday to celebrate.

“My daughter was in her class so it is a privilege to know her as a parent and a co-worker,” Faith Lawler, assistant director, said. “She is my role model for work. She’s an outstanding lady and it’s a privilege to know her.”

Contact Rebecca at rebecca.hertz@wninews.com or call 469-517-1451.