Student Teachers Shine in Little Ones' Eyes

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Early Childhood Education Students Image

Samantha Ramsey is completing an Early Childhood Education student teaching experience at the E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center on the campus of TMCC.

Early Childhood Education majors who student teach at the E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center shine in little ones' eyes, touch the lives of families, and refresh the spirit of instructors and staff.

“The student teachers are building trust with the children, staff and families,” said Crystal Swank, Professor and Early Childhood Education Coordinator at Truckee Meadows Community College. “The children are learning how to learn and becoming socially capable.”

Child Care Center Director Diane Nicolet agrees.

“Starting out with a fun and trusting relationship is big, because there are many years of education ahead for young children,” Nicolet said. “Forty to forty-five percent of our families are full-time working families. They start creating bonds with student teachers that are very important.”

Staff members at the Center believe that student teachers bring new ideas to the job.

“They bring fresh energy and an extra set of hands,” Nicolet said. “The student teachers give children attention, love and opportunity – people who care about them, help them learn and spend time with them.”

Swank adds that student teachers are also benefitting in a big way from the Center’s teachers.

“Students are watching how a teacher is engaging the children – because they’ve been taught to observe as part of their training,” Swank said. “The deeper thinking; the critical thinking part is to make sense of the bigger picture. Asking a lot of questions starting with ‘why’ is an important way to build knowledge and skills.”

TMCC students work at the Center, and complete student teaching there

There are about 25 TMCC students who work as paid staff at the E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center. From that number, typically about 17 are Early Childhood Education majors. This semester, four students are completing their student teaching at the Center, and two more are placed in a community program for their practicum.

“Some students have already worked as staff at the Child Care Center, and they move into a different role as a student teacher,” Swank said. “They wear two different hats, one as a paid worker and one as a student who is paying for their education.”

The practicum is 195 hours of student teaching, with most of the time spent working as an individual to demonstrate competencies previously learned in the classroom. Other hours are group activities and working as a team with other early childhood education teachers.

Student teachers at the Child Care Center are Yi Fei Bing, Naomi Goodwin, Brooke Hodge and Samantha Ramsey. Susan Albion and Dilek Tuncer are completing their practicum in community placements. Albion works with four-year-olds at a grant-funded language and literacy emphasis program housed at Sparks High School. Tuncer student teaches at the Wooster High School Early Learning Center, which provides care for children of Wooster students.

Hodge and Albion are also home child care providers, and for part of their practicum, are observed teaching in their homes by Professor Swank. Student teaching placements are decided on a case-by-case basis, Swank said.

The student teaching experience is a three-credit course, and they also concurrently complete an in-class practicum seminar course for two credits.

Student teaching comprises a full portfolio of skill sets

Early Childhood Education (ECE) majors build a diverse and wide array of proficiencies:

  • Plan and implement curriculum and daily routines
  • Lead group activities and circle time
  • Practice positive guidance techniques
  • Guide large motor activities
  • Supervise playground free play
  • Observe and assess child development
  • Contribute to newsletters and create bulletin boards
  • Plan and hold family engagement activity
  • Complete ECE class projects and assignments
  • Learn about the administration of a child care business or center

Swank and Nicolet agree that the list is much longer, especially when factoring in unexpected happenings that become teachable moments.

“They’re never left alone, so they always feel supported, treated as emerging professionals,” Nicolet said. “They are held to the same standards as regular staff, and after a very thorough orientation the first week, are always guided by mentors and models for best practices. The mentors become resources for planning curriculum.”

Swank adds that the student teachers come from a diverse range of interests and backgrounds, adding to each other’s education.

“They have the opportunity to practice skills in high quality settings where they have great mentors,” she said. “They journal, they dig deep and say what they’ve learned and what they still need to know, what they’d like to learn from their instructor.”

E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center provides services for TMCC students’ children

The Child Care Center is accredited by the National Accreditation Commission (NAC) and has programs and services that are especially helpful for students at TMCC:

  • Semester-Care: child care for a few hours each week while students are in class or studying
  • Care and education for infants six weeks to 18 months, toddlers from 18-36 months, and preschoolers aged three-five years

For Semester-Care, it is helpful if TMCC students have their class schedule established prior to enrolling children in the program. Child care openings fill on a first-come, first-served basis. The Center is open from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Monday-Friday.

To enroll their children, parents or guardians fill out registration paperwork, supply proof of childhood immunizations and well-child checkup, and attend an orientation to the Center.

For more information about the E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center, call 775-674-7515, or for the Early Childhood Education Program, call 775-673-7185.