The Purdue University North Central Class of 2012 included many “firsts,” including the first bachelor’s degrees awarded in Nursing and in Early Childhood Education.
Bring the first carries with it a lot of fun, excitement and responsibility. For the Early Childhood Education graduates they were not only the first students through the program, but they shared their knowledge and experiences as “firsts” and shared that as mentors and role models for the students in the classes behind them.
As stated by Dr. Mary Jane Eisenhauer, assistant professor of Early Childhood Education, “They were the first to do everything in the program – the first to try service-learning , the first to volunteer at the annual early childhood conference, the first to experience the field placements and practicum. It was overwhelming to witness their growth in four short years. They left their mark on the program and at PNC.”
Eisenhauer and Debra Pratt, continuing lecturer of Education, have worked to establish the program as a community of learners. This past spring the Early Childhood Education students freshman-level to senior gathered for a Celebration of Learning to showcase for their various projects and learning experiences. The event was an ideal opportunity for students to interact outside of the classroom while showcasing the work they accomplished during the year and inspiration one another for what lies ahead in the program.
As Eisenhauer explained, many of the first-year students looked at the soon-to-be graduates and said “I can’t believe that someday that will be me!”
Dara Hale was one of the four students who made up the Early Childhood Education first graduating class. She earned a degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Purdue University in West Lafayette and was working as an assistant speech therapist for the Michigan City School System when she decided to enroll at PNC.
“I always wanted to be a teacher and work with children,” she explained.
Hale knew her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education would open a world of new opportunities. Today, she is employed with Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehabilitation Center.
Many employment opportunities await these young women, said Eisenhauer. “The world is becoming more aware of the importance of high quality early care and education experiences. It is vital that learning experiences begin when our children are infants and continue throughout their lives. The world is ready to invest in its young children by hiring the most effective professionals to do the job.
“These PNC graduates are equipped to be teachers, advocates, developmental therapists, parent educators, home visitors and more.”
Erin Foust accepted a job at Dunebrook in Michigan City where she serves children and families outside of a school setting. She credits an internship with Dunebrook – that happened to come through the PNC Communication Department – with opening her eyes to the many possibilities available to her.
Through her service learning project, she took the challenge of organizing activities for the Month of the Young Child in Northwest Indiana.
“My internship truly inspired me. It gave me the opportunity to explore an agency that focuses on early childhood development, safety and communication. Dunebrook gave me the opportunity to find my niche.”
The PNC Early Childhood Education students enhance their educational experiences through the club Purdue Learning About Young Children in Education (PLAYCE), involvement the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children, Inc. (IAEYCE) and participation in the annual PNC Early Childhood Conference.
Alison Tobey admits that she loves young children. She volunteered for the PLAYCE children’s Halloween Party before she was even enrolled in her Early Childhood classes. She is willing to take time to think about how children learn so that she can create games and activities that promote learning.
She supplemented her Early Childhood studies with a semester studying in Peru with the PNC Study Abroad program.
Courtney Golding is a natural in the Early Childhood classroom, said Eisenhauer. “She has a gentle calm that children love. She is incredibly creative and resourceful. Her projects appeal to the imaginations of young children.”
As these graduates move forward in their careers and continue to accomplish their “firsts” they will continue to serve as role models for the PNC Early Childhood program, said Eisenhauer. “They will always be an inspiration to those who follow.”