Sharon Tallman spends her days rocking babies.

Tallman is an infant para-educator at Hays Area Children's Center.

She earned a teaching degree from Fort Hays State University and started her career in the local district.

"Subbing is great. It pays great when you sub, but I wanted a regular job," she said.

She started working at the HACC in 1993, the same year her daughter, Johnae Blackmon, an FHSU freshman, was born. Johnae was followed by Trey and Isaiah Blackmon, Hays High School juniors, and Dante Blackmon, an eighth-grader at Hays Middle School. Johnae was in kindergarten when Dante, Tallman's youngest child, was born.

Tallman became a single parent when she was pregnant with Dante.

As a single parent of four children, she knew she couldn't be the kind of teacher she would want to be. Still, she needed a job.

"The money -- you need it -- but sometimes it's just not workable unless you give something up, and I wanted to be a good mom. That was more important than anything."

Because she has a teaching degree, she started at the HACC working with preschool children and moved to the infant room later when there was an opening.

"I love the people I work with, and I love babies," she said. "It's nice to be with the babies, but I wouldn't mind moving around again."

After work, Tallman can focus on her own children.

"Once I picked them up, I didn't have to worry any more about the children's center until the next day. But yet when I was there, I could give 100 percent to those kids."

Her son, Trey, has Down syndrome, and working with other families who have children with special needs has helped.

"I love kids, and God gave me a forever kid," she said of Trey.

Another son has asthma. That along with other childhood illnesses meant additional time and care. Now that they are older, they are involved in a number of activities.

"A lot of jobs you just can't leave," Tallman said. "Because we are all about kids, they are understanding."

Tallman's work schedule allows her to take her children to school and pick them up after school and hear firsthand about their day.

Her children "talk to their dad all the time, but it's not the same. He's just not here."

Tallman's mother died several years ago, but her father, Ernest Tallman, serves as a male role model for her children.

"He's been a big help," she said. "He goes to all my kids' activities."

She might consider a teaching career after her children are grown, but it would be hard to leave HACC.

"Everybody there loves kids," Tallman said. "I love kids. It's been nice having a job I love."