Laura has worked with young children as an early childhood teacher for 10 years. She started in the field because she loves children, although she “truly had no idea how inspiring this field was until I had the opportunity to work in a classroom,” she said. “To see how children find their way, build their first social connections, learn their first words, and connect to the world around them within an early childhood classroom is incredible. The first five years of life is such an important part of shaping each individual, and being a teacher of those first years is so rewarding.”
Laura earned her associate’s degree in Liberal Studies at the Community College of Vermont (CCV) in 2013, and the degree allowed her to become a teacher at Hilltop Montessori School in Brattleboro, Vermont, where she still works now. While going back to school was always a goal, the push for early childhood teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree and a teacher’s license in Vermont was just the push she needed to take the step. “It felt like the right thing to do now to stay in the field,” she said.
She turned to CCV, where staff introduced her to the CCV to NVU Pathway for a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. “The CCV to NVU pathway was very easy for me, and I already had the experience hours I needed,” she said. Laura started in fall 2020, and “it was a pretty seamless start. I had been out of school for seven years, and thought it might be tough to go back. But it’s been easy!”
The program's structure is designed for students who are working full-time.
The program’s structure is “designed for a student like me working full-time in the field and looking to advance and get that teaching license!” she said. “Sitting down to class work and assignments at night and on the weekend feels like an extension of so much I have already built into my years of teaching.”
Laura also credits ECE advisor Heather Duhamel as “an amazing advisor who helps at every turn. From finding financial aid and registering for classes to coursework throughout the semester, she’s always there to help.”
There’s a strong sense of community among the 10 students in her group, too. “We are all moving through the program together, and we know all about each other’s background,” she said. “The class discussions are really engaging and build off of prior semesters, too.”
Laura will graduate in spring 2022 with her bachelor’s along with a minor in anthropology and sociology. Initially worried about the cost and how working and going to school at the same time would work, she’s found “it’s been very doable for sure.” Laura has kept the costs affordable thanks to the scholarships and grants she’s received, and is “making it work — without taking out loans.”
Looking ahead, Laura feels her work may shift into taking on more classroom responsibility after she graduates. She feels she will be well prepared to do so after the five semesters of designing lesson plans and studying child development, along with the submission of a portfolio of her work to the state of Vermont through Northern Vermont University, she said. “I could see myself heading in the direction of a program director, early learning specialist, or licensed pre-k teacher in a public school. I also have every intention of continuing on and obtaining my master’s degree as well.”
Laura’s career as an early childhood educator has “become one of the most important things in my life,” she said. “Watching children grow up in my community after being their teacher is one of the most rewarding and driving parts of my work. There is nothing more wonderful then hearing from children and their families that my classroom was a nurturing, welcoming, and inspiring place to be.”
“As much as I knew I wanted to pursue a bachelor’s degree and teaching license, I lacked the right direction to head in until I found NVU,” Laura said. “Realizing that a short year from now, I will have a bachelor’s degree and will be a licensed teacher in Vermont with a deep and rich knowledge of early childhood education fills me with so much excitement,” she said.
“It also makes me want to shout out to all the amazing early childhood education teachers in Vermont,” Laura said. “You can do this — you can push forward and get that degree, get that license, and help grow the early childhood education field of teachers here in our state. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made.”