photo courtesy call child development center
Student success is paramount at Santa Rosa Junior College Children’s Center — and not just for the infants toddling around the center’s play area. SRJC students partially staff the center, caring for the children as part of their coursework. This means that both the children in the center’s care and the adults who care for them are learning and developing skills that will shape their futures.
This joint effort between the college’s Children’s Center and its child development program create a cycle for participants, a cycle that illuminates the power of learning and of a college education.
Maleese Warner has been director of SRJC’s early childhood education program for the past three years, and was formerly the manager of child development services, overseeing the preschool and toddler program. She has unique perspective on the connection between the two.
“The program gives ownership, in a sense, to the JC from a very young age and gets children interested in the fact that their parents are in college,” Warner said. “They’re seeing their parents go to school and eventually they can [also] go to [college].”
SRJC’s Children’s Center provides rich opportunities for both its youngest pupils and those with higher education dreams.
As one of only four Program for Infant and Toddler Care facilities nationwide, SRJC Children’s Center helps infants receive a safe, healthy and emotionally secure start in an intellectually-stimulating environment while encouraging student-teachers to learn best practices they can later deploy in their own classrooms.
“We do developmentally appropriate practices working with the children at all the levels that they need for their development,” Warner said.
Teachers provide a language-rich experience for students as young as 6 months old, ensuring they hear as many words as possible, broadening their vocabularies even before they are old enough to speak. Teachers also take care to engage directly with each child, while keeping a close eye on each student’s interests.
The center’s low student-to-teacher ratio makes this shared learning experience possible.
Infant participants range in age from 6 to 18 months and enjoy a 3-to-1 student-teacher ratio. Toddler classes are geared toward 18- to 36-month-old children with a 4-to-1 ratio of students to teachers, and the preschool group, which caters to 3-year-olds through kindergarteners, offers an 8-to-1 ratio.
“My favorite thing about teaching and working with the younger children is just how brilliant they truly are and how much their brains just absorb so much information,” Warner said.
This level of interaction and enrichment is as valuable to SRJC’s student-teachers as it is the children; it provides a gateway into teaching, according to Warner.
“If you’re interested in education in general, it is a beautiful stepping stone, even into K-12.”
The opportunity to student-teach at the Children’s Center through SRJC’s child development program is offered in a six unit practicum course, CHLD 66: Early Childhood Care and Education Practicum.
“It’s a very comprehensive program where [SRJC students] have a lot of time to work with the children,” Warner said. Typical SRJC practicum courses are three units; CHLD 66’s three extra practicum hours in allow students to benefit from in-depth instruction in a lengthier, more focused setting as opposed to short, 1.5 hour bursts twice a week. CHLD 66 helps students get in the required hours needed for their teaching credentials early.
But the strongest testament to child development program and the Children’s Center partnership is watching a former student become a student-teacher and then a full-time staff member. According to Warner, the majority of the center’s employees have come through the program, graduated from SRJC and were hired into the center as associate teachers.
“Even the site supervisor downstairs — she was an intern, and then she became an associate teacher and she’s been here nearly 20 years,” Warner said.
Tina Rosenberg started as a student with SRJC nearly 20 years ago. She worked through the child development program and spent a year as an intern. After becoming a teacher and teaching for 10 years she was promoted to the Children’s Center site supervisor. She credits her success to the program’s flexibility and support system. “There’s a lot of support, lots of different teachers willing to help you succeed.”
“As I’ve branched out, I’ve gotten to know all the kids, and their families. I really enjoy providing the children a safe place for learning.”