Stephanie Renee Clark, director of the Child Development Center, grew up in Athens, Georgia, and at age 14 moved to Gainesville to live in the house her family owned on Lake Lanier. Her father was a heat and air company owner, while her mother raised Clark and her sister at home.
She attended North Hall High School and earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education from Lanier Technical College in 2002. Originally thinking she would be a teacher in the Hall County school system, her friend Chelsea Beard, WC ’08, persuaded her to come to Brenau, and she was hired at the Child Development Center in 2006. First she taught in the classroom and planned on going back to school to get a special education degree, until she was promoted to assistant director. In August 2016, she became director. While working at the CDC, she went on to earn a B.S. in organizational leadership in 2013, an M.S. in applied gerontology in 2015 and a graduate certificate in business administration and management in 2017.
“I’m thankful to have the organizational leadership degree for the job that I do,” she said. “To be able to run the staff and the day-to-day finances of the center, the organizational leadership really helped me with that. I’m glad I went that route.”
Clark said, after 11 years at the CDC, no two days are alike. She starts every day saying good morning and hugging the children as they arrive.
“It’s kind of hard to have a bad day, even if you come in with a foul mood,” she said. “Once I get in the hallway and start getting my hugs, [the bad mood] brushes off my shoulders.”
She also tends to the billing and administrative work, but makes time to interact with the children on the playground, read them a book and sing songs with them in class. She strives to maintain a kid-friendly and family-oriented atmosphere, and always has an open door to anyone who may have concerns.
“My favorite times are when we go trick-or-treating around campus … We all get dressed up and it’s always a really fun time,” Clark said. “We host a fall festival for the parents and children, and we usually do something really funny and off-the-wall. One year the teachers dressed up as the cast of The Wizard of Oz. It makes us laugh and gives us a time to be outside the classroom with the kids.”
Also a mom to two children – Cooper, 8, and Chloe, 5, both of whom attended the CDC – and two stepchildren – Shelby, 21, and Reed, 17 – Clark enjoys going to her son Cooper’s basketball, baseball and football games, and camping and boating on Lake Lanier with her husband Craig and the family. She would like to someday become an adjunct and work up to becoming a college professor.