Alumni & Student Spotlight | Early Childhood Education | Kent State University

Alumni & Student Spotlight

Block V Early Childhood students with ECED alumni

Block V Early Childhood students

(shown here with some ECED alumni) shared their final projects in an IB Exhibition Night in May 2018.

COST participantsCOST 2017

Celebrating international teaching experiences:  Returning COST students (spring 2017) met with upcoming COST students (fall 2017) to share experiences, travel tips, and teaching strategies for global classrooms.

Top row, L-R: Torie Rymarczyk (ECED, New Zealand); Paisley Curtis (ECED, New Zealand); and Carolyn Reisdorff (TESOL, Mexico).
Seated, L-R: Amanda Krebs (ECED, Ireland); Amanda Monarchino (MCED, Ecuador); and Carlee Coffey (ECED, The Netherlands). 

Teresa Cianchetti - Ohio Teacher of the Year 2016Teacher of the Year Award 2016

Congratulations to Teresa Cianchetti on being named Ohio Teacher of the Year, 2016! Read about Teresa's achievements.

Rima Alharbi

Rima AlharbiWhat field/position are you currently working in?
I’m an assistant teacher at an early childhood department in a university in Saudi Arabia.

What degree program are you in and what are your goals after you get your degree?
I’m a M.Ed student. After acquiring the degree, I will be looking forward to continuing my educational journey by applying for a PhD in early childhood education. With this educational background, I intend to seek out leadership roles in early childhood education as well as collaborate with policy makers and colleagues to plan and implement a curriculum that enables young learners to realize their fullest potential

What brought you to Kent State University?
Before coming to the U.S., my husband and I were looking for a good but not costly town where we could both advance our education.  We were mostly interested in smaller communities as opposed to large cities. However, the most important motivation was to find a university that offers a high quality early childhood program. 

What are your most memorable experiences as a student of Kent State?
I would say that this was when I first encountered the Child Development Center. It was a great opportunity for me to be a part of a children's class. It has not only helped me understand the educational process and the educational environment in the U.S., but also has reminded me of my childhood, even though I did not attend kindergarten.

What have you learned from the M.Ed program?
The fact that I am from Kent State gives me unique insights about the importance of having global awareness and understanding of cultural diversity and how they influence behavior, values, beliefs, and learning processes. I have come to experience that culture is fundamentally responsible for the salient differences that are observable between the behavior of individuals from different cultures, and that it is a mistake to undervalue the strong influence of cultural differences. I believe that there are still systematic misunderstandings of individuals from different cultures, especially when it comes to modes of perception, communication styles and beliefs.

There may also be a prevalent assumption that the host country is providing all necessary services that minority communities require to become meaningfully integrated in the dominant culture. In this regard, my status as an international student enables me to understand these multifaceted issues especially their relationship to learning and curriculum development. the knowledge I have acquired in my current studies especially from Rogoff’s research on culture and learning further affirm my belief in the high relevance of culture in current education that features more multicultural classrooms than in the past few decades.

In the contemporary global world, conventional classroom practices are increasingly being replaced by novel and exciting opportunities for incorporating the world inside the classroom. In addition to more international students being found in the contemporary classrooms, modern communication platforms also ensure that students are able to experience foreign cultures with greater ease compared to just a few decades ago. This strengthens my belief and commitment to developing international collaboration and global awareness in classrooms which also offers opportunities for teachers and students alike to put learning into context.

Jenny LampeJenny Lampe

What field/position are you currently working in?
Lead Toddler Teacher at the Kent State Child Development Center

What degree program are you in and what are your goals after you get your degree?
Currently, I am enrolled as student in the Master of Early Childhood Education program. After I graduate my goals are to continue with my research in the early years focusing on empathy in and amongst our youngest learners, as well as working with other educators to gain a greater understanding of how we, as educators, can support authentically child-driven curriculum in a community oriented learning environment. In addition to working with the children at the CDC, I hope to have the opportunity to travel and learn with children in different parts of the world so as to expound on my understandings of the child in a global sense. My long-term goal is to work toward earning my doctorate in education at which point I hope to serve as a support for future teachers as they work towards their pedagogical goals, thus bringing the process full circle.

What brought you to Kent State?
I was drawn toward this program because of their child-first teaching philosophies. As a constructivist teacher having served as both a teacher and as an administrator, I always strive to be challenged and questioned in an effort to gain greater insight into my philosophy. I am also someone that seeks to inquire as to the philosophies of others as I steadfastly believe that what is seemingly right for me, may not be right for another – similar to the inter-workings of the early childhood classroom. As a life-long learner, I relish in the opportunity to listen to and experience with others, which is something that the classes at Kent State provide. It is not so much a matter of what is and what is not, but rather, why and why not?

Are you involved in any organizations/activities on campus?
I am a teacher at the CDC, which means I have a unique opportunity to work with students and families both collegiate and otherwise. In other words, this means that I have the privilege to learn about people, cultures, and families from all over the world, both in and outside of my classroom.

What are your most memorable experiences as a student of Kent State?

  • Challenging discussions in class that make me question who I am as a teacher and as a person.
  • Campus scavenger hunt with my cohort
  • Stepping into the CDC and realizing that my life as a self-proclaimed gypsy was done and that I had found my home here in Kent, Ohio.

What is one thing you wish you’d known before coming to Kent State?
How much my life would change for the better. Oh! And buy your parking pass ASAP! Summit East is a LOOOOOOONG walk.

Christopher HouchinsChristopher Houchins

What year did you graduate and which programs did you complete?
I graduated the spring semester of 2013 and completed the Early Childhood Education program at Kent State.

Are you currently employed, and if so, where?
I am currently employed as a kindergarten teacher at John S. Park Elementary located in Las Vegas. 

What were some of your biggest challenges after graduating that shaped your career?
My biggest challenge was moving out west to Las Vegas shortly after graduating. Before moving, I had never traveled far, so moving really challenged my thinking about myself, my teaching, and about people much different from myself. I no longer had the support system of my family and friends and I had to rely on myself to guide my decisions.  Additionally, the school that hired me was a Title 1 school located right in the center of the city with a mostly Hispanic population that spoke little-to-no English. I’m not going to lie – the first few months were difficult. I was a new teacher in a new environment all by myself with 32 kindergarteners and no aide. At least half of the students spoke little-to-no English and I did not speak Spanish. However, as the year progressed, I got a handle on things and pushed myself to be the best I could be in that situation. Thankfully, I survived (and, you will too) and became a stronger teacher and person because of it.

What has been your most significant professional accomplishment since graduating?
My most significant professional accomplishment since graduating has been succeeding in an environment where the odds seemed to be stacked against me. Since my first year teaching, I have become a teacher-leader at my school and have been given the opportunity to become the math coordinator, despite only having close to three years under my belt. To be given responsibility so early in my career has helped me realize that anything can be accomplished no matter the circumstance.

What advice would you give to students studying in Early Childhood Education? 
I owe so much to the Early Childhood Education program at Kent State. My advice is to enjoy every second of the experience with your cohort. There will be times when you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated. During those times, it is best to lean on your friends who are going through the program as well. I cannot count the number of times my friends and I stayed up late at the library or at Starbucks, working hours on all the projects that were due each semester. However, after each semester I felt like I had accomplished something significant and you will experience that feeling as you go through the program as well. You will definitely be ready to lead your own classroom when you graduate.

Kristina TurkKristina Turk

What degree did you receive from Kent State? 
I received a  PhD in Curriculum and Instruction- Early Childhood Education 

How did you end up working for Goddard Schools?
I have owned and operated The Goddard School located in Concord Twp., Ohio for 14 years. Prior to owning my school I was a teacher for Perry Local Schools- in grade 2 and Kindergarten for 13 years. The pressures associated with standardized testing in young children drove my decision to leave public education to own an early childhood facility where I could implement an emergent, inquiry based curriculum fostering play.

How did Kent State help you get to where you are today?
KSU helped me acquire the knowledge and confidence to write, submit and implement an emergent curriculum at my school. The professors at KSU were compassionate individuals that truly cared about me. Their knowledge and commitment to the highest standards inspired and motivated me to take risks, ask questions, and insist on best practices for all young children.

What advice would you give to students studying Early Childhood Education?
Smile at kids, give hugs, get to know them, celebrate them, respect them and listen to them. Have fun, enjoy what you're doing. Don't get discouraged with policies you can't control, steer clear of negativity. Be the teacher you wanted to keep forever when you were a kid.

What does the National Educational Leadership Award mean to you?
This award acknowledges that with enough hard work, dedication and compassion anything can be accomplished and everyone can make a difference.

What is your leadership philosophy and how do you use it in your career?
As an educator and business owner it is my responsibility and priority to assure that every classroom is equipped with an effective teacher. I believe in empowering my teachers - they are involved in every decision making process from marketing to curriculum to hiring. In order to do this I spend time getting to know them as individuals. I can't care about them if I don't know them. I meet individually with each teacher to set goals. I invest a great deal of time and money into staff development and professional growth. I believe that because I spend so much time getting to know them, celebrating, appreciating, and respecting them, they want to come to work. It's a positive culture where they internalize that culture has a bigger purpose- it's not about a paycheck, it is about coming to work every day with people who care about you working together for common goal....children

Jamie SissonJamie Sisson

What year (years) did you graduate and which program(s) did you complete?
PhD in Curriculum and Instruction- 2011

Are you currently employed, and if so, where?
Yes, I am currently employed at the University of South Australia as a lecturer.

What were some of your biggest challenges after graduating that shaped your career?
After graduating from KSU one of the biggest challenges I faced was the decision to move with my young family for an academic position at the University of South Australia. I have always been interested in the early childhood research coming from Australia however; my husband and I were also interested in returning to our alma mater where I had also applied for an academic position. With the support of family, friends and my wonderful advisors at Kent State University we made the decision to move to Australia. This decision was not only based on the opportunities it provided for my career but also the opportunities it provided my husband and my two young children. It has been almost two years and we are very happy and enjoying our new life.

Being that my first position as an academic was in a different country I not only faced the challenge of adjusting to my new role as an academic but also the challenges of understanding this role in a new culturally situated context with a different educational system. While the first two years have been challenging I am certainly thankful for the opportunities this experience has afforded me to learn and develop. One of the most significant strategies I have used to overcome these challenges has been to become involved in local professional groups and to establish relationships with area schools and preschools.

What has been your most significant professional accomplishment since graduating?
My most significant professional accomplishment has been securing a grant and expanding my dissertation research in Australia. My dissertation was focused on understanding the professional identities of public preschool teachers. In securing a DRPF grant at UniSA I have been able to expand this work which now includes four researchers and expands across the preschool and Jr. primary school contexts. The use of narrative inquiry has been significant to this research and has contributed to the field by providing a space for the voices of preschool and Jr. primary teacher from the United States and Australia to be heard.

Alicia WeaverAlicia Weaver

What year (years) did you graduate and which program(s) did you complete?
I graduated in December 2008 and completed the Early Childhood Education program.

What were some of your biggest challenges after graduating that shaped your career?
I had a difficult time finding a position once I graduated. I subbed for a year, but I had a strong desire to have a classroom of my own. I decided to take a teaching job in Bush, Alaska. I live in a remote community where our biggest mode of transportation is a small plane. Pushing myself and trying something new has allowed me to teach here for the past two years. It truly has helped me both personally and professionally expand my teaching and try new things.

What has been your most significant professional accomplishment since graduating?
Currently, I am working towards my master’s degree in Special Education at the University of Alaska SouthEast. It is an online program, so I am able to take my classes at night. My biggest accomplishment has been getting to know the culture and community that I live in. One of the things I like about Alaska is that you never know what to expect. There are no shopping malls or restaurants. The closest village is a few miles away and to get there I must board aplane, snow machine, or boat. The culture is very interesting and I have learned about hunting and fishing. The community has been very inviting and welcoming. Since the community is remote, it is important to learn about the resources the land and community has to offer.

Are you currently employed, and if so, where?
I work in a Yupik village of 300 in rural Alaska. I am a 3rd and 4th grade teacher in the Lower Kuskokwim School District. I came across the job in Alaska through the Kent State Teacher Interview Day. I begin to find out information and become very interested in the position. I took the leap and decided come here to teach.

Heather HutmacherHeather Hutmacher

What year did you graduate and which program did you complete?
I graduated in December of 2010 and I received my bachelor's of science degree in early childhood education.

Are you currently employed, and if so, where?
I am employed as a Year 1 primary school teacher at Gladstone Primary School in Auckland, New Zealand.

What were some of your biggest challenges after graduating that shaped your career?
Since graduating, I have found I have had many challenges in the world of education. The first would be the lack of jobs available to teachers in the Midwest, which is one of the reasons I chose to relocate to New Zealand. When I moved here over a year ago, there were a plethora of teaching positions available, so it was not very difficult to find a job.

While teaching in a foreign country has been such an amazing experience, and I have no regrets deciding to move here, it creates another challenge of living away from my friends and family. As much as I LOVE living in New Zealand, I find that I do really miss the comfort of home. Fortunately, I have found a solid personal support group, as well as within the teaching staff at Gladstone, but nothing can replace home.

Something else I find challenging is being able to accept that I will never finish everything I would like to finish in planning and organizing my classroom. As a primary school teacher, there will ALWAYS be something that needs to be done. Another teacher has taught me to divide my work into three categories, "Must get done," "Eventually needs to be done," and "It would be nice." This way of organizing my many tasks has been a big part in helping me get through my first year of teaching.