Ashley is an Early Childhood Educator
The MSVU Child Study Centre serves as a model training facility for students in the Bachelor of Arts (Child and Youth Study) degree program, provides the opportunity for observation and research related to early childhood and child development, and serves as a resource for the community. A number of CHYS graduates have opportunities not only to complete practica in the center but also join the Child Study Centre team.
Ashley cares for two to five year olds at the Child Study Centre at Mount Saint Vincent University. The on-campus centre is a dynamic working and teaching childcare centre. Not only is the centre an educative environment for children, but it’s a facility for students, faculty and professionals to learn, research, observe and interact with children and staff. Though providing a safe, caring, educative environment for children is first and foremost, it is also a facility where students, faculty and professionals involved in children’s lives may come to learn, research, observe and interact with children and staff. For professionals like Ashley who have the educational background, experience and willingness to teach others, this is an ideal environment in which to follow a career.
Learning and professional development are ongoing for early childhood educators, so throughout the year Ashley attends professional development courses and workshops. She says one of the most practical courses she has taken has been the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) that she uses frequently throughout the day to communicate with children with autism or other special needs.
Ashley and the other early childhood educators at the centre meet regularly to discuss and assess the children’s needs, abilities, interests and progress. These discussions help them to develop an early learning program that is diverse and developmentally appropriate. They also set individual goals for the children to help prepare them socially, emotionally and academically for elementary school. Based on these goals, they have designed a unique daily program they call “small group”, a period of time set aside to address goals through fun activities and experiences. “Every day it’s a different group of children and you target different goals,” says Ashley. “It’s teacher-directed and they love it! They love to be in another room with a small group of five or six children.”
It is clear that Ashley is dedicated to caring for and educating children and she truly enjoys her work. “Playing with them is the best thing! They’re just having fun and enjoying it, but you get to make it educational for them too so they don’t really know that you’re teaching them something.”
“One of the best things the program did for me was giving me the opportunity to network,” she says. Ashley established a relationship with the Child Study Centre during a practicum placement. That relationship continued when she was offered a student position, followed by a temporary position that ultimately led to the permanent position she now holds.
Ashley regularly supervises students from the Child and Youth Study degree program, guiding them through practicum by modelling the skills and professional behaviour required in this field, evaluating their performance and providing feedback. She was a student not so long ago, and now enjoys helping current students work through their ideas, plan activities and develop observational skills that she stresses are essential.
“Say ‘yes’ to every possible experience or opportunity,” advises Ashley to students. “The more hands-on opportunities and experiences that you have, the more that you will be able to apply later.”