ROCKFORD (WREX) — To say Sylvia Landreth is well traveled is an understatement.
Her first big trip came when she was 9 year old as her family made the journey from Mexico to the United States.
She settled in Southern California with her mom, dad and nine siblings.
Being one of the oldest, she took it upon herself to help the rest of her family adjust to their new home.
"I used to work with my younger brothers and sisters because my parents didn't speak English and we picked up English very quickly," Landreth said.
Fast forward to college where Landreth found the opportunity to take part in missionary work.
It turned into a 20 year career taking her through many parts of the country and the rest of the world.
"At least 4 or 5 times around the United States. I've been to Latvia, Lithuania where I taught for a month and a half. I've also been to Peru. I was in Lima where we were building a clinic for homeless children," Landreth said.
Through all of the explorations, teaching and children were a common theme.
The two worlds combined when Landreth moved to Rockford after her husband found a parsonage job in the area.
After giving birth to her fourth child, Landreth joined a teaching program with Rockford Public Schools.
Only this time, she was the student.
"I got along really well with my teacher and she mentored me to co-teach with her," Landreth said.
Landreth got her associates degree from Rock Valley College, her Bachelors Degree from Rockford University and eventually earning her Master's Degree in early childhood from Northern Illinois University.
While going to school, Mrs. Landreth worked her way into the Rockford Public Schools system and popped around the district for many years as an early childhood bilingual teacher.
She has stayed put for a few years now, teaching at Fairview Early Childhood Center.
With kids as young as the ones she teaches, Landreth says the goal is not necessarily for them to learn how to speak English.
"I'm helping them develop communication, easing them into the English aspect of their life here in the United States," Landreth said.
It isn't the kids alone benefiting from Mrs. Landreth's approach.
A 'parents always welcome' policy is in place for the classroom and it's helped the parents get to know and feel comfortable with the woman teaching their children.
"I have four kids and all of them have been with her. She is the best. She plays with the kids, she interacts really good with them. I really enjoy that my kids have had time with her," Prisma Galarza said.
"She has us come into the classroom and interact with them and that makes her a special person."
The appreciation from parents means a lot to Mrs. Landreth.
As she gets ready to retire at the end of this school year, she is looking back on home she made in the stateline, a place she calls "a hidden treasure."
"I've traveled all over the country and I've been to many places and Rockford is a real jewel," Landreth said.
"I do what I do because I love it and just that other people are able to see how much I enjoy and love my job, it's actually humbling, I'm very grateful."