Early Childhood Center provides hands-on experience for education majors


Audrey Wilson works with some of the students at the Early Childhood Center.

For over 30 years the Early Childhood Center (ECC) has provided a place for not only children to learn but for NKU students to learn as well.

Employing around 25 students each semester, the early childhood center allows early childhood education majors to put their skills to the test and gain valuable experience teaching children ages 1-5.

Melanie Caldwell, the director of the Early Childhood Center, believes that working for the center is a great experience for students because the students are in charge of their own small groups within the classroom and get to experience events that may occur in their very own classrooms someday.

“Working here gives students an opportunity to take what they are learning in class and apply it in real life situations,” Caldwell said. “We are a high-quality program and I think since we are on a university campus, there’s an expectation to put our practices to use.”

Katie Puterbaugh, a senior elementary education major, has worked for the Early Childhood Center since January of 2011 and believes she is gaining valuable experience that will help her obtain a job once she graduates.

“The ECC has given me a lot of great experience working with kids,” Puterbaugh said. “Working at the ECC has also taught me the value of working hard, being professional and has given me more experience in the field.”

Katie Little, a senior education major, also believes that the Early Childhood Center will play a huge role in obtaining a job after she graduates.

“The ECC is a great background experience for me that has given me an idea of what life will be like as a teacher,” Little said.  “It gives me the sense of what classroom life is like, activities I will be able to take with me, what to expect with children, how to react in certain situations, millions of ideas for lesson plans and books to read, the sense of what children are interested in, laws and standards, and parent involvement.”

Sophomore elementary education major Kate Gandenberger looks forward to working with the children at the Early Childhood Center each day and seeing their skills improve.

“Seeing kids grow and get ready to go to their next program is very rewarding for me,” Gandenberger said. “For instance, some kids come into the program as toddlers who can’t walk yet and getting to see them progress and eventually leave the program walking is very cool. I see that they’re making progress daily, so it makes me very excited.”

Little, also finds herself constantly impressed with the growth of the children in her classroom and looks forward to watching them advance on to Kindergarten once they complete the program.

“I love, even though it is sad, having the opportunity to see a child start in the classroom at the age of two and a half, and watching them depart for kindergarten when they are five,” Little said.  “It is truly amazing to watch how much a child changes and grows.  I spend more time with the kids sometimes than I do at home and it is so cool to be such a big part in their lives, in their journey through school.”

Ali Godel, lecturer for the NKU Honors Program, has a child currently enrolled at the Early Childhood Center and loves the experiences that her child is gaining with the help of the student teachers.

“The student workers are the highlight of the ECC I think, because they are very dedicated, very professional and easy going,” Godel said. “It’s always astonishing to me that we have students going to school and hanging out with little kids as well. We’ve had great experiences with them.”

Caldwell believes that the early childhood center is a huge asset to the university because it not only provides a hands-on experience for education majors, but it also provides student parents, staff and faculty with affordable and reliable childcare.

“I think the number one thing about the ECC is that we are here for student parents,” Caldwell said. “They know their child is going to be safe and they can go to class without worrying. It also is efficient because it allows a student to make one less stop in the morning so they can come straight to campus. The same applies for the staff and faculty on campus.”

Caldwell would like to see the presence of the Early Childhood Center grow more on campus, to help as many student parents as possible. To do that, she believes it could be a possibility in the future for the location of the center to move to a larger space.

“We have always noticed or recognized that we need to be a better service to student parents,” Caldwell said. “One of the concerns is that we have a little space, so over the years we’ve looked at different spaces on campus to see if we can expand.”

The expansion would also offer the opportunity for more student jobs within the early childhood center so that education majors can continue to improve their skills throughout their college career.

“The ECC is a great place to work because it offers a place for students to work and still go to school,” Puterbaugh said. “It really helps education majors grow as both leaders and teachers before they begin teaching in their own classrooms.”

Gandenberger hopes to work for the Early Childhood Center until she graduates from NKU, allowing herself to gain as much experience as possible.

“It is a great place to work, a great place to send your kids and I think we have a lot of great student staff working here,” Gandenberger said. “I believe the ECC is a very valuable resource to NKU.”