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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Tammy Gilchrist has a love for children that’s contagious.

“I really enjoy working with those little kids. I do, and I feel like I was born to do this,” she said.

As natural as Gilchrist is working with kids, she didn’t start her career in the classroom.

“Through this journey, I was a phone operator. I worked at grocery stores, but I landed within the teaching because I was laid off,” Gilchrist said.

Getting laid off as a phone operator was a minor setback that set her up to finally pursue the career of her dreams – being a teacher.

She got her foot in the door at as a substitute teacher with Children & Families First at one of its High Point locations.

Gilchrist learned about the agency’s Child Development Associate Apprentice Program.

The program allowed her to get the credentials she needed to become a lead teacher working with infants and toddlers free of charge.

She completed the program in six months.

Gilchrist is happy in her new role and feels a great sense of accomplishment by prioritizing her career goals.

“What’s rewarding for me as a whole for myself is to see that I have this certificate here. I’ve accomplished something for myself,” she said. “To hold that certificate, and it says my name on it and not someone else’s name, [it’s] so rewarding because I know that’s a step to what I want to do.”

Gilchrist is moving forward with plans to earn her associate degree.

She was accepted into the T.E.A.C.H. program and plans to enroll at Guilford Technical Community College in the spring.

Gilchrist hopes to one day operate her own enrichment center.