Thursday, December 11, 2014

From Preschool Teacher to Early Childhood Professor

In the fall of 1990, I started my freshman year at Missouri Southern State University as a secondary history major thinking it would be cool to teach history in high school.  During my first semester I had an introductory education course that placed us in our desired grade level for a short observation.  After my introductory time in that history class I quickly decided that high school was not the place for me.  Luckily, it was still my first semester and I had not taken classes that wouldn't work with another major.  Knowing that I still wanted to be a teacher but with smaller kiddos I switched my major to elementary/early childhood education.  I enjoyed the courses and the field experiences through which discovered where I belonged.  I even joined a student organization geared toward elementary and early childhood.  I graduated in May 1995 after a 10 week student teaching experience split between kindergarten and first grade.  

I got married less than a month after graduation and had secured a summer job with the local parks department as a playground director.  For this summer gig I spend my days supervising activities for kindergarten to sixth grade kiddos at a local was hot and tiring but I was really tan that summer...and if it rained...I didn't have to work.  Before summer began, I had interviewed for a few positions in early elementary grade classrooms and a private preschool program...those situations didn't work out because I lacked experience (how does one get experience if they can't get hired because they lack experience?) and most of the programs didn't fit my personality or beliefs.  One day in August, I was alerted to a small newspaper ad for a teacher position in 3-5 year old classroom in the lab school at the college from which I had just graduated.  I applied for the job and was soon called for an interview.  The day of the interview I was working at my park job and it started raining in the afternoon which meant the park kids were picked up early and I was able to run home to shower and change for my interview.  I remember that my hair was not yet completely dry when I arrived for the interview...but at least I was visibly clean.  The interview went well and maybe a week or so later the director called and offered my the job...which I excitedly accepted. 

I started my teaching career in August of 1995.  I loved having my own classroom and I enjoyed the other teachers.   settled into a good routine with planning and executing fun activities in my classroom.  I inherited a gerbil named Fred who passed away shortly after I started...which may be the topic of another post.  The next summer I attended the Project Construct Basic Institute for a week to learn more about the curriculum model used by the Child Development Center.  I decided it made since to enroll to get graduate credit for attending the institute.  Little did I know this would be the start of my masters program.  I continued to take a class or two a semester from Missouri State University, they brought their masters program to my campus.  Soon it was announced that our program director would be retiring and we formed a search committee.  To make a long story short I ended up applying for and becoming director...I never had any aspirations to become a director and quite frankly wasn't sure what I was getting myself into.  

Upon becoming director I had a lot of things to learn...enrollment, purchasing, licensing, accreditation, hiring/firing, billing, and so much more.  One little job that came along with being director was advising some of the early childhood majors...which I found that I really liked.  During the first few years of my directorship I was coordinating an early childhood conference and teaching continuing education courses for child care providers.  Within the first few years as director I had a baby and I finished my masters.  I was soon asked to teach one of the early childhood courses...scary but fun!  After a few years of teaching adults I decided this was a new direction for me to pursue...which meant I needed to begin a doctoral program.  

In 2003, while pregnant with my second child I was accepted into the Ph.D. program at the University of Arkansas  in curriculum and instruction.  I started my doctoral work in the spring of 2004 while working full time as the center director, teaching one EC class, coordinating and teaching continuing education courses, coordinating an early childhood conference...with two kids, a husband, and a dog at home.  Now my plan was to wait for the lead early childhood faculty member to retire (or die) so I could have her position.  

Well...nothing happened until sometime in late 2007 when I saw a newspaper ad for an early childhood faculty position (and lab school director) position at my school's closest rival Pittsburg State University (only 30 miles from my home).  I thought, "What the heck..."  I was ABD and held the qualifications I quietly applied for the position.  I was called for a phone interview and later an on campus interview in February 2008.  A few weeks later they called and offered me the job...I did the obligatory "let me think about it" and then accepted the position.  I made the announcement in March that I would be leaving my current job in July...lots of drama...lots of lessons learned soon my office was packed up and eyes were dried.  I said my goodbyes and then I had about a month to prepare for this new chapter in my life.

After a family vacation to Florida I got settled into my new office and began preparing for my fall courses while interviewing my subjects for my dissertation. It was a busy semester...everything was new and much of it was a blur.  I attended my first NAEYC conference that November with my new colleague (the lead preschool teacher) and a group of students...this would become an annual event (I have now presented at the conference for three years in a row).  I felt like I had settled in well and felt very comfortable.  As expected, the spring semester went even smoother than the fall.  In April, I defended my dissertation and graduated in May 2009.

My time at PSU has been great...I love working with people who want to work with young children.  I also enjoy being one of the advisors for our early childhood student organization.  My major accomplishments the past few years have been serving on the KAEYC governing board (as a member at large and now secretary); getting an article published in a journal;  contributions to a few regional publications and one popular parenting magazine; numerous local and regional presentations; achieving NAEYC accreditation of the preschool in 2012; and earning tenure and being promoted to associate professor in 2013.  I always say I have the best of both worlds...I work with the college students but I can sneak in and enjoy the preschool kiddos as needed.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi, any advice for someone considering the jump to teaching at the community college level? I spent my undergrad years in preschool classrooms, and the last few years as a trainer for Head Start programs. I recently graduated with my masters. A position is open nearby, but I've never taught nor "pretended" to develop material for a college level course. It's a scary idea. :)