TMCC College News

85% of Child Care Center Employees Achieve Degrees

Posted: Jul 2, 2014

Image of Child Care Center Student Staff

Jen Scheel, a student employee of the E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center, reads to a group of young children during June 2014.

Student employees of the E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center complete their degrees at Truckee Meadows Community College with an 85 percent graduation rate, and are quickly snapped up by Reno-Sparks preschools.

“When students report to a potential employer that they graduated from TMCC and worked at the Child Care Center, employers want to hire the students – they are very marketable,” said Diane Nicolet, Director of the E.L. Cord Child Care Center.

Preschools in the area have given positive feedback.

“A local childcare center owner expressed to me, ‘your graduates are the most dependable and reliable students I’ve every hired,’” Nicolet said. “Our students love the work, it’s more than a job, it’s a profession, a calling.”

Reasons leading to the high graduation rate of the center’s staff

Nicolet attributes the center’s high graduation rate to a comprehensive hiring and development process, the relationship-building, and the sense of team coupled with mentorship which are deep parts of the culture. Also, each student constructs a professional portfolio.

“The portfolio solidifies that experts are there to help, and confirms to them that they are a part of a high-performing team,” Nicolet said. “Training certificates are included, as well as a professional development profile, transcripts, self-evaluations, and evaluations by the participating teacher.”

Students who are enrolled in six or more credits are eligible for consideration and complete a multi-step hiring process. In the first step, the prospective child care worker observes at the center for two hours and completes a written summary. Then there is an interview with the master teacher, followed by a second meeting with the master teacher and the director. The conversation is in-depth about the student’s goals, aspirations and motivations.

“There is a culture of mentorship,” Nicolet said. “We put our own needs aside to care for and educate young people. Students embrace the fact that this vital, nurturing career is worth doing well.”

There are three expectations at the center; safety, fun and education. Working as a team is inherent in a position taking care of and teaching kids.

“The team element is instrumental in helping us all feel focused and united – no one here feels like they’re alone,” Nicolet said. “It’s fun, intellectual, hard work, and even spiritual. And you can’t do it alone. We are good at forming teams here.”

There are nine full time staffers at the center. Student employees number 25, and all attend TMCC or the University of Nevada, Reno. Eighteen of the student staff members are early childhood education majors and seven are studying elementary education or enrolled in other programs. At TMCC, students can complete either an AA or an AAS, and the Associate of Arts is a university transfer degree.

Working with children encourages a fresh viewpoint

“Courses that are new to students, like science or accounting – that make a person slightly uncomfortable – will stimulate discussions,” Nicolet said. “It gets a person out of one’s comfort zone, and helps identify that children have to stretch out of their comfort zone every day. Since we ask the children how they’re feeling, and to think about that, we also reflect on our own motivation and experience.”

Following the 40-hour paid training, employees assist and train with other staff for two-three months before they care for and educate children. At some point in their work, there is an aha moment.

“There comes a sense of wonder, just like a three-year-old experiences,” Nicolet said.

An example of one such moment of amazement was expressed by a three-year-old boy. An employee noticed him watching the security monitor mounted high in the corner with nine separated split-screen images. He watched the webcam pictures carefully for a while and then exclaimed, “Can you please change the channel?”

The E.L. Cord Child Care Center

On any typical day at the center, care and education is provided to about 75 young people. Children from the region’s communities, who are not part of TMCC staff or student families, make up about 45 percent of the center’s population. Close to 35 percent are children of TMCC students, and children of TMCC staff comprise about 20 percent of attendees to the center.

“Our work also makes a difference for the community’s economic development,” Nicolet said.

The staff cares for children in three main age groupings; infants six weeks to 18 months, toddlers from 18-36 months old, and preschoolers aged three-five years. The Center is accredited by the National Accreditation Commission (NAC).

A new semester-care option is available to TMCC students and faculty to enroll their children while attending or teaching class.

More information about degrees in Early Childhood Education can be found on the ECE Web pages, and information about the E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center may be found on their website, or by phoning 775-674-7515.

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TMCC's Public Information Office
Telephone: 775-673-7087

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