“Did I tell you I was a singer too?”
With a smile and a sly look in her eye, she pulls out her phone and starts to play a song. It’s a jazzy rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow sung by a strong alto voice and accompanied by piano.
By this point, it shouldn’t be a surprise that our Director of School Age Care (SAC), Nancy Fallon, has another hidden talent, but her quiet, unassuming manor keeps these gems tucked away.
Music is just one of her creative outlets. Taught to play the guitar, accordion, piano and harmonica by her dad, Nancy loves making up her own songs – even submitting a handful of songs to a Nashville producer in the 80s (with some interest in a few of them!)
While creativity wasn’t always a part of her career, it has most certainly always been a part of her life. After school, Nancy spent 14 years working at John Morrell’s in Sioux Falls. It was a family job – several of her immediate family members held jobs at the Sioux Falls mainstay. All the while, Nancy continued to paint and pursue art.
But something stronger was at play in Nancy’s heart. For years, Nancy would dream at night that she was in a classroom – behind a desk. She couldn’t figure out why she was having this dream, over and over. Until it clicked – she needed to work with kids.
At that point, Nancy shifted career paths and headed to work at Hawthorne Elementary in their special needs classroom. After two years at Hawthorne, Nancy took a role at Youth Enrichment Services and hasn’t had that dream since.
Nancy joined EmBe as an assistant in the after school program nine years ago. She quickly was promoted to a lead, and two years later was made the Director of SAC program. Those 17 years of experience working with kids before she came to EmBe have helped her grow the school age care from one site with 45 kids to a five-site operation with 380 students.
The SAC program has been shaped and influenced by Nancy’s creativity and heart.
“We have activities going constantly, we’re never sitting still. We’re doing projects. This summer we’re traveling around the world, learning about different countries from around the world,” said Fallon. Lessons and activities in EmBe’s SAC program come to life when Nancy sits down and brainstorms – puts pen to paper and lets her imagination wander. That creativity, coupled with her experience, makes EmBe’s program second to none.
“After working with kids for 28 years, you just know what clicks with kids and what makes them happy,” said Fallon. One of her favorite annual activities is the downtown sidewalk chalk EmBe does with the City of Sioux Falls. Over 300 EmBe summer care kids come downtown and decorate the sidewalks – brightening the already vibrant downtown.
Nancy empowers her staff to take ownership of their program – letting them take the spotlight for successes.
“I started where they started and I know what it’s like to be in their shoes. If you treat people with respect and you are proud of what they do for you and you show them that, they’ll stay with you a lot longer.”
At the end of the day, Nancy knows that the personal relationships she builds at EmBe are the true mark of success.
“The most important thing is that your kids are happy and your staff is happy. If you have that going for you, you don’t have any problems in your program,” said Fallon. “I don’t need to have people give me credit all the time or a big pat on the back. One-on-one time with kids is my greatest reward.”