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2003 Nanny of the Year

 Spotlight on The Nanny of the Year 2003 – Michelle McNabb

I remember sitting in the INA conference in San Diego this year and waiting for the Nanny of the Year of 2003 to be officially announced. By that time we knew Michelle McNabb had been chosen but other than knowing what she looked like, I knew nothing about her.

As I sat there and listened to her speech, my heart felt such a tug towards her. Michelle’s spoke about her learning disability, dyslexia, and how her mother had never given up on her. As a mother and a nanny who has personally dealt with my own and other children’s learning disabilities, I began to feel personally invested in her story. I asked Michelle to tell me more about herself and below is her story.

I am hoping you will see that Nannies come from all backgrounds. We make conscious choices to become nannies. But Michelle is proof that we are strong and dynamic people who feel we have chosen a profession as well as a vocation.

Michelle McNabb’s Story

I am the youngest of seven children (4 brothers and 2 sisters). It’s funny how children know when they are different. No one really has to tell them. When I was in first grade, I knew there was something different about me. They started testing me that year and put me in speech therapy for the next three years. Then came second grade and more testing. At first, my mother and teacher were just told I was just “shy” and nothing was really wrong with me. Luckily for me, my mom was never in denial about me. She knew there was something even if she couldn’t give it a name. It was very difficult for me to read out loud.

In second grade I was sent to a learning center for half an hour every day. It was to give me extra help in timed reading, writing, spelling and math. I would continue in this direction until I reached sixth grade.

I was fortunate because my mom embraced my learning processes. I can’t remember how many years she sat with me each day as I read out loud for 30 minutes or more. While learning centers are great for getting extra help, it can’t change the learning process by itself. It has to continue at home. My mother, to her credit, understood that, years before they lectured on it.

One of my problems in reading out loud was that I would know the word but couldn’t seem to get from my head to my mouth. It was so frustrating and I worried that other kids would think I was stupid as it happened with even simple words. Self-esteem is very fragile and I could have lost it early on. It was my mother that never let me give up and who told me I didn’t have to have straight A’s but it was important that I always gave my best effort. She made me feel anything was possible and it gave me the courage to work harder.

Maybe it was because of this that I did work hard and I did get good grades. At the beginning of 5th grade we were given a reading test and I got a 100%! The teacher didn’t put me in the high reading group though because he understood my reading problems. But I felt very smart! It reinforced what my mother had always said, “don’t’ give up, keep trying, do your best”.

In seventh grade I gathered up my courage and decided not to go to the learning center any more. I continued to get A’s, B’s and the occasional C. I was definitely one of the lucky ones as I was able to get help at school and help at home. That boost to my self-esteem and the reward of good grades gave me my confidence that I could succeed.

It wasn’t till 10th grade when my mom was watching the Donahue show and saw his guest, Harold N. Levinson, MD and the author of Smart But Feeling Dumb, that we heard anyone talk about dyslexia. I can’t tell you how it felt to know that I wasn’t dumb but just different and it had a name! I tried in the next few years to learn everything I could about dyslexia and even did reports in high school and college on the subject. It turned out that all the one-on-one that my mom did with me and the methods she used were exactly the way you work with dyslexia. The learning center with its phonetic approach to reading, reading and spelling repetition and extra help with numbers was exactly what I had needed and had helped me be successful. Even though it wasn’t diagnosed, my mom had not given up advocating for me and it had paid off.

There is always that debate about things having so many “labels” now days. But for me, knowing and understanding my label gave me more confidence as I headed off for college. Not only did I get AS in Education and my BS in Family and Consumer Sciences Education, but I also had a high enough grade average to qualify for Phi Upsilon Omicron Honor Society. I also received the Moscow Home Economists Cash Award and the Mary Hall Niccoll’s Academic scholarship.

Graduating from College was a wonderful moment; once again I had beaten the odds! I had pushed myself hard to succeed and never stopped believing that if you worked hard and did everything to the best of your ability, you could accomplish anything.

Now all I had to do was decide on a profession. In completing my student teaching, I decided teaching high school wasn’t really for me.

I tried working at a preschool. It frustrated me not being able to give each child the attention they needed and deserved. Maybe it was because I understood how important it was to be able to teach a child based on his or her specific needs. It was then I decided to look into being a nanny.

I got a call one morning from a mom asking to be the nanny for her 7 month old little boy. They lived in Dallas. Although we had interviewed only on the phone, I accepted! I was young and it never occurred to me to insist on a face to face interview first! I may never know what my mom really thought, her fears for me, I only know she helped me pack and drove with me to Dallas.

I know I was very lucky that the job worked out so beautifully. I stayed with the family for 3 years. I created lesson plans for my charge using theme teaching, arts and crafts, designed language, science, math, outings and social play into the written plans. I felt this would help the parents to understand what we were working on and what he was learning. It started me in the direction of making sure the parents and I were always a team. I will be forever grateful to this family for giving me the chance to learn about the nanny profession.

When the Dallas job ended I moved to the Seattle area to be closer to my family. I got a job taking care of an almost two year old and six months into the job his sister joined us.

After 18 months I moved to a new family that had a 15 month old boy and a 5 year old boy. I was with them for two years when I moved with the family to Great Falls, Virginia. I would stay with this family another two years till the youngest was 4 and started school full time. My youngest child was extraordinary. He was a natural athlete and had this quest for learning. He was in a swim class with 4 and 5 year olds when he was only 2 ½ and begged us for tennis lessons at the same time! Naturally, we all thought he was too young but he proved us wrong. Later we would spend time at the driving range, as he wanted to learn to play golf. When he was four he asked me to teach him to read. Soon he was reading the first two boxes of the BOB books. As a nanny I was able to utilize everything I had learned in college and knew I had chosen the right profession.

While in Virginia I joined the Association of DC Area Nannies (ADCAN) and was the Newsletter Editor and Secretary for ADCAN.

Not every job is perfect of course. Sometimes there are things that just don’t fit for the nanny. That happened in my next live out job where I stayed only one year. Turns out I was very allergic to the dog hair in the house.

Every nanny is looking for the next great job and I found it with my current family.

I started working with the twins when they were six months old. This job has been the most interesting as I have watched them grow and develop. One is a boy and one is a girl and they are perfect examples of why you should never compare children. My little boy crawled first but my girl talked first.

The other rewarding aspect in this job is that I am learning about another culture, as their father is Chinese. I’ve also traveled extensively with this family and now know first hand the challenge of going through security with twins, strollers, car seats and a diaper bag! I see challenges every day with my inquisitive charges and love every moment!

As a member of the Northwest Nanny Association of which I am a secretary, I am able to keep active in nanny playgroups too.

It has been a long journey from that shy first grader who knew she was different into the confident woman I am today. I have chosen a profession where everything that I have been, am today and will be tomorrow can be used.

When I started as a nanny I knew very little about the profession. I owe a lot to the nannies from Dallas who were members of Nanny Link and taught me so much about my profession. They were the ones that told me about INA and I attended my first INA conference in 1995 with them and have attended every year since.

It’s an honor to be chosen Nanny of the Year. I don’t think anyone could ever understand how much this means to me. I have learned so much about being a professional nanny in the past ten years as an INA member. I will do my best in representing all members of this outstanding organization.

I would like to thank Annie Davis, owner of Annie’s Nannies Inc., for believing in my dedication to this profession and nominating me for this honor. I have been very lucky to have such a wonderful agency to support me.

In closing, I thank once again my mom for believing in me and instilling in me to never give up, to always give your best. If I can impart to my charges this same philosophy, I will say to myself, “well done Michelle, well done”.