#HomeGrownStories – June Drieling
June Drieling moved to Miami County from Shelby County over thirty years ago. She became acquainted with Brukner Nature Center when her children were young. She took them to PEEP, Brukner’s Preschool Environmental Education Program. June volunteered with the PEEP program before she started teaching in 1995. Today, June is the Director of Education at Brukner. She still teaches the PEEP classes. Some of her students are the children of her first PEEPers. They bring their kids back to Brukner to grow up around nature as they did years ago.
On moving to Miami County:
I live in Miami County. I moved here in 1984 when my husband and I got married. I’m from Shelby County and he was from the Greenville area. A lot of my husband’s family live in Miami County. My family is from further up north in Auglaize and Shelby counties.
How she started working at Brukner Nature Center:
I became involved with Brukner when my kids were in preschool. I used to take them to preschool at the Y in Piqua. My friend told me about a preschool program at a nature center that her kids loved. I found out that this nature center, Brukner, was less than ten minutes away from my house. Instead of driving all the way to Piqua I decided to try the preschool at the nature center. I signed them up for PEEP and they loved it out here!
The lady that helped with the preschool was hospitalized for bypass surgery. They needed a helper for the class so I started out as a volunteer. When Miss Terri, the teacher at the time, had her baby she wanted to cut back on her hours. She asked Joanne if they could hire someone to help her part-time and she recommended me for the job. When Joanne asked me if I would like to start teaching for PEEP, I said that I would love to do that. I thought it would be so much fun and I could do it on the days my kids came for class. As I was getting ready to leave the room, Joanne asked me if I wanted to know how much I’d be making. I said “What? I get paid for this?!” [Laughs]
Everything fell into place. It was the perfect thing for me. For the first couple years I worked here I didn’t really make any money. I was so excited about being here and teaching. The majority of my paycheck went to buy books and things for the classroom. For me this isn’t work, it’s fun! I went from working a few hours a week to a couple more hours. Then I picked up another class. They hired me in 1995. Around 2000 I started helping as the volunteer coordinator. Then I started helping in the office. In 2009 I became the Director of Education. That’s my current position. I’ve worn several different hats between the time I started to where I’m at now.
How PEEP has grown over the years:
The PEEP program has grown tremendously. It’s crazy! We have classes on Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday, Friday morning and Friday afternoon. There are twelve students in each class and all our classes are full. It’s a very popular program!
I have kids coming to the program that are the younger siblings of kids that I’ve already had in PEEP. I’ve been here long enough that I’m starting to have kids that I had as PEEPers bring their kids back to the program! They’re so excited when they walk in the door because they remember me! When it’s time to go home the kids are jibber jabbering away with their parents. They chat all the way home about the things that they did that day. It’s fun to see that cycle repeat in the next generation of kids.
The PEEP program is my biggest accomplishment and the thing I’m most proud of here at Brukner. It has grown. It can be exhausting, especially after I’ve been with preschoolers all week. But I always say that if I ever have a day when I go home and I’m not tired, I didn’t do my job right. You should be giving one hundred percent to these kids when they’re here. That’s what I try to do every day. I know there are days when I don’t; everyone has those days. But it’s definitely the program I’m most proud of.
There’s something about the little guys, you know? They’re so fun! They get so excited about walking in the door – their eyes light up as soon as you see them. No matter how crummy you feel as soon as the kids start walking in the door your whole world changes. Their attitude rubs off on you. You’re excited. You’re happy. I have a great time teaching the PEEP program.
How volunteers can help Brukner Nature Center:
We can always use volunteers at Brukner. One of our most popular programs for schools is our nature awareness program. When school starts we’ll be busy with field trips from September through November. Our outreach programs keep us busy from December to February. In the spring we start field trips again. There’s always something we can use volunteer help with, even if it’s just an extra set of hands in the PEEP program.
We have volunteers who help take care of the wildlife ambassadors. We have people that help by baking cookies for our programs. They can’t be out here but they still want to help so they bake for us. For Haunted Woods we go through close to 130 dozen cookies. That’s a lot of cookies!
What she loves most about Miami County:
This area is wonderful. I love this place. The people are what I love the most. The people are who kept me here all these years. They’re friendly and welcoming. You don’t feel unwanted.
It’s also that hometown feeling. It’s unique in its own little way but hard to put into words. It’s like going home, it’s hard to describe but when you’re there you know that this is where you belong. That’s how I’ve always felt. Even though I’m not from here, we’ve been here for 30 some years. It’s my home now. No matter where I go this is the home I would come back to. If I ever left that is. They’d have a hard time getting rid of me though [laughs].
Her Miami County recommendations for out-of-town visitors:
K’s Hamburger Shop is an awesome place to eat. It’s one of those places that’s been here for years. The Troy-Hayner Cultural Center has some neat things. We enjoy going to Overfield. For my family though, we love visiting the parks and being outside. We like to go hiking at Stillwater Prairie and Charleston Falls.
Ways out-of-town visitors can enjoy Brukner:
We have large events throughout the year. The Art of Nature is coming up in October. At the end of October is our Haunted Woods. It’s a family-friendly, non-scary event. We hold it on the last two weekends of October. It’s a lot of fun!
Anytime is an awesome time to come to the nature center. There are six miles of hiking trails out here. The people are friendly. The wildlife ambassadors are awesome. That’s a unique thing that we have here. People love to come and see them. The Iddings Log House is here. It’s the oldest structure in Miami County that sits on its original site.
No matter what season it is, there’s always something going on. You can visit Brukner once a week for a whole month and every time you’re going to see something different. There’s always something happening and changing through the seasons.
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