By Steve Koehler
Missouri’s urgent need for well-trained early-childhood development specialists has put that academic program among the Top 10 programs that Ozarks Technical Community College offers.
In addition to wanting to enter a growing profession, most students in the program say they do it for their love of children.
“People think it’s fun to work with young children. They get to play. They are kids at heart,” said Jo Fritts, Division Chair for the Early Childhood Development program.
Fritts said the job market is good for professionals because the state and federal governments are planning to invest more money into Early-Childhood Development, and because of the huge demand for childcare in general.
That demand for childcare can be found inside the walls of the Early Childhood Education Center, where 76 children are cared for daily and a long list of families are waiting to bring their child to the facility.
Nearly a dozen years ago, the program taught eight sections of classes, today more than twenty sections are taught, making the program one of the Top 10 programs at the College in terms of enrollment.
Students come to the program with one primary motivation — to work with young children.
“Young people get excited to know that they can worth with kids and that it’s OK to finger paint and make clean mud. At the same time, they are teaching young people about the world.” Fritts said.
Connie Harmon, director of the center, said the building is equipped with observation windows in the classrooms so students can see child interaction and view teaching techniques.
The new center, which opened in 2007, has greatly enhanced the program and what can be taught. There are classrooms on the first floor and the childcare center is on the second.
“The other facility was too small. This playground is double in size. We’re one of the top programs because word has gotten out in the community about the program and facility and it makes students want to come here,” Harmon said.
But money is not the motivation for students who want to work in early childcare positions.
“We don’t get paid very much but there are not many jobs where you get a hug everyday and you’re told that they love you,” she said.
Amie Rollins, a second year student from Springfield, said she came to OTC because of the smaller size of the school and the quality of the program.
“I love the teachers. You can talk to them about your concerns. The classes are wonderful,” she said.
Melody Coulter, a first-semester student from Springfield, said she prefers to be around young children and wants to make it into her profession.
“It’s a natural thing for me. Kids are my passion. My two favorite things are teaching and kids,” she said.
Coulter plans to either be a teacher or open a daycare center after completing her education at OTC.
“The kids are more like family here. They inspire me,” she said.
For more information on entering the Early Childhood Development program, call 417-447-8820.
Steve Koehler is coordinator of publications at Ozarks Technical Community College.
College Director of Communication
Coordinator of Public Information