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Early Childhood Education Program Expanding

12:56 AM · Dec 4, 2022

Early Childhood Education is expanding and potentially changing names at the end of the school year. The Early Childhood Education program at Roseburg High School has been around for decades, caring for children in the community, then training up childcare workers and parents, then educators for all levels. “I believe, it's a great way to explore what you want to do, as a future working with children, because you can see if you want to work with the littler kids or the bigger kids,” 12th grader, Samantha LeClaire said. She spends two class periods per day working in the Child Development Center daycare attached to the high school and the Early Childhood Education program. “And if you wanted to work in daycare, this is a great way to get your first experience because you have a lot of great role models.” LeClaire found herself talking to program director and teacher Mary Malepsy in her freshman year and realized it was exactly what she wanted to do to further her own career goals. She took both pre-requisite classes between sophomore and junior year and now she helps in the baby class every day of the week. “I want to be a child’s therapist,” LeClaire said. “I love working with children and I thought it would be a good opportunity to get experience working with children before trying to be a therapist for them. Growing up, I was in therapy, and my therapist did not know how to communicate properly with a small child who did not know their words. I feel like I would be able to help children know how to communicate with others better for adults to understand. It’s hard for children to get their point across because they don’t have a big vocabulary.” Students learn in a corner of the Fine Arts Building where two walls have windows looking into the adjacent child care facility that is run with assistance from students in the program. The one-way windows allow Malepsy to point out examples of the concepts she is teaching. Some students fall in love with it after taking a class for a senior health credit. “It’s a good place for students to come if they want to learn about children and possibly work with kids,” Malepsy said. “Sometimes, the students are thinking about just the future way off in the distance and becoming parents. I’ll have a lot of students that end up in the seat and then they get surprised with all of the things that they learn.” About 150 students take a class with Malepsy in a semester and about 30 go through the whole program each year. Last year, Malepsy expanded her program with a new class and a new pathway. If students take Intro to Education and Pre-teach, offered through the career center, in the same year, they can earn three college credits through Umpqua Community College. The new pathway aims to capture students who are interested in teaching early. Malepsy taught it for the first time in the second semester of the 2021-2022 school year. “Everybody in there wanted to be a teacher, except for one student and he actually loved the class because he thought it was really interesting just to see what goes on in the background that you don't realize when you sit in a class,” Malepsy said. “I had some students leave that semester realizing ‘I don't think I want to be a teacher,’ and a lot of them realized, ‘yeah, that really is what I want to do and now I have some of the college done for it.’ Either way, it's a good thing. We have a really high burnout of teachers in the first few years where they realize, ‘this is not what I expected.’ I love what I do. And I tell them that, I love it but you have to be ready to work hard and you have to be passionate about what you do because for how much school you go to and how much work you're putting in, you probably could get paid more doing something else. We talk about that a lot because the pay does not equate with the work they're doing.” The class covered everything from the school system to classroom management, to education laws, to lesson planning as well as professional skills that can apply elsewhere like communication. The pre-teach program has been around for a while, so students could go into elementary or middle school classrooms and take over minimal tasks. That program never allowed students to earn college credits until Malepsy added the Intro to Education course. She works with UCC each year to ensure her coursework is aligned with their requirements. The Early Childhood Education program is one of the older Career and Technical Education programs at RHS. When the program began, CTE Program Director Sheri Carson said it was a house dedicated to serving teen parents, and teaching students how to care for children was a secondary goal. When the Fine Arts Building was built in 2003, the focus changed and the daycare center was incorporated into the building in a way that would serve the students learning just as well as the children were cared for. RHS has increased its CTE program offerings to nine. Some programs offered in previous years have been combined into others, are no longer relevant, or are planned for the future. There are other new programs that Carson is looking forward to adding and building, such as an EMT fire science program to the health occupations program. “I feel good about them,” Carson said. “They are strong programs. Most of them have been around now for quite a while, except for the very new ones, but the teachers are picking it up. They are trying to train 28 kids on how to do something when you've mainly worked with adults who already have an understanding or maybe you were training them one-on-one.” Assistant Principal Adam Blue is the administrator responsible for the CTE programs. “I'm a firm believer in options and open doors,” Blue said. “Develop some skills and understanding, because you never know what's going to happen down the road or what opportunities are going to open up to you. When you have those skills, you can take those opportunities that open up to you. That's what we try to provide.” The CTE concentrator graduation rate for RHS in the 2020-21 school year was 94.51%, compared with 89% for all students. The rate for CTE participants was 91.89%. All three rates are above the state average. A high-quality CTE program teaches more than technical skills. The programs teach behaviors and mindsets necessary to succeed. For 12th grader Marsella Rosas, the class has opened her mind to new potential careers. She took Intro to Childhood Development in her freshman year to fulfill her senior health credit but was sure she wanted to be a real estate agent after high school. But she followed the path and took Planning Activities for Children and looked forward to working in the daycare center in her junior year. Now, she is working in the attached daycare center for two class periods a day and nannying after school and sees herself working in child care as a career. The program teaches them not only how to care for children, but how to plan age-appropriate activities, how to plan a lesson for a classroom, how school systems work, how to apply for a job and accountability to a job. The program Malepsy runs also provides college credits from Umpqua Community College and work experience for students who work in the daycare center. “The more I work with kids, the more I enjoy it and the more I’m considering changing up my future job,” Rosas said. “Seeing them learn and grow and see the way they handle things and the way they accomplish things, and their joy, it’s so cute! In Planning Activities for Children, we would come in here and I was so excited to work in here. And now I do, and I love it! I feel lucky to be able to work in here. I look forward to going to school to work here. The bonds you can create with the kids, and you see how different they each are, it’s so cool.” *** Photos are of Samantha LeClaire and Marsella Rosas working in the Child Development Center at Roseburg High School.