Butcher, a 42-year-old mother of two, was one of the ECLC’s first students when she started working on her associate’s degree in 2000 around the time that UC launched the distance-learning program to help Head Start teachers around the United States meet new federal requirements, Angie included. Recalling that in high school she was told that she “wasn’t college material,” Angie had married, was raising two sons and was working as an in-home child care provider before she was hired at a Head Start agency in 1992. The Head Start workers started learning about the federal mandates in 1999. Fifty-percent of the workers in Head Start centers were required to earn a minimum associate’s degree by 2003.
“When I first heard about the mandates, I was thinking about quitting. I had a husband, two boys and a job, and the closest college was 40 miles away. That’s when I first heard about the ECLC,” says Angie.
Using the Internet, VHS, CD-Rom and CVD (CDs that can be played in newer DVD players), the ECLC allows students, primarily non-traditional college-age working moms, to earn their degree on their own time, in their own homes. Angie achieved her associate’s degree in 2004 and immediately continued on her bachelor’s degree through the program. She needed her bachelor’s degree to continue working in early intervention for the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MRDD) Services. However, because she could only get part-time work there, she recently switched to a full-time job with the Help Me Grow Agency which provides home visits for families of children ranging from newborn age to three years old. The agency assists with referrals and developmental screening. Butcher says that job also required a bachelor’s degree.
“In today’s world where change is constant and hard work is what it takes to thrive and succeed, Angie is an example of an individual that has embraced the desire for knowledge, reflection, scholarly debate, and for commitment to the field of early childhood education, while at the same time offering help to her fellow students when appropriate,” says Donna Ruiz, academic director for ECLC. “Foremost, Angie is a success story because Angie believed in herself throughout her education.”
“I was so unbelievably scared when I first started this adventure,” Butcher recalls, as she feared her computer skills were not savvy enough to take a distance-learning program. “The instructors were so supportive – they would take the time to talk with me on the phone. Even though the classroom was online, I always felt there was someone I could talk to.”
“Angie has been an enthusiastic and independent learner,” says ECLC Director Lisa Holstrom. “She always looked for ways to connect with me and her classmates through e-mail and discussion. Even when she was doing well, she wanted to do better. Angie has very high expectations for herself.”
Meanwhile, UC’s ECLC continues to grow as well – reaching out to learners around the world. Holstrom says this spring, the program signed articulation agreements with all four of the U.S. military branches – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines – aligning the military preschool training programs with ECLC courses in the associate’s degree program. Holstrom says many of those childcare providers are spouses of soldiers on active duty while others are civilians, caring for the children of military families.
Holstrom reports that during spring quarter, the ECLC had 532 students taking online classes. Those students live in 37 different states and in four different countries.
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