Meet Kayla

Finding Her Tribe

Kayla got her start working with children while teaching Sunday school and vacation Bible school through her church. Through that experience, she decided working with children was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. In fact, she felt her calling so much so that she enrolled in New River Community College in Dublin right out of high school, even though, at that point, she wasn’t yet exactly sure what she was going to do with her degree. At first, she was enrolled in the elementary transfer program, putting her on track to become an elementary school teacher, but it wasn’t until she was taking an early childhood education course as part of the program that she zeroed in on her true interest: working with children in the preschool age group.

From there, Kayla switched to the Early Childhood Education program at New River, and between that, working in a daycare center while going to school and the hands-on lab work required in the program, she knew she this was where she belonged. What’s more, she knew that the community she was building with her cohorts in the program would ensure her success.

“It was helpful that the classes were in person, since it’s a field where you work with people,” she recalls of her time at New River. “You work with children and parents, so it’s helpful to have that in-person interaction. Scenarios come up that you wouldn’t encounter just doing your work online.” She remembers some examples she encountered during her internship where two children weren’t getting along, and another child was having behavioral issues. Because she was in the program, she was able to discuss the situation with classmates and instructors to determine the appropriate course of action to remedy the situation and discuss what’s developmentally appropriate for the children. “It was helpful to have back-and-forth conversation with someone about what was going on,” she says. “Because the classes were small, we got to know each other and build off each other and get ideas from each other on lesson plans, or help when you were struggling with something.”

As if the support system she received through her classmates weren’t enough, the instructors at New River also bolstered her confidence and capability. She was guided and mentored through the program by one of her instructors, Bonnie Graham, and it was the one-on-one discussions she had with Bonnie that really solidified her passion and helped her find her way. Instead of just teaching out of a text book, Bonnie would observe students in their hands-on work and then exemplify the behavior she wanted the students to adopt and learn, versus expecting them to absorb that information in a lecture setting. “She would model the behavior—instead of just telling us—how to appropriately talk to parent and child about whatever’s going on at the time,” said Kayla.

And the support didn’t end once she completed her degree at New River either. “We definitely keep in touch. We’re all friends on Facebook. I text with the other lead teacher that used to be there, and we talk every once in a while. It definitely did create a sense of community and that was helpful in the program.”

Kayla completed her associate degree in 2014 and went on to become a lead teacher at the lab school at New River. As for advice she’d give potential students thinking about enrolling in the program, she says, “You have to love working with people—not only with children, but with parents and other teachers, because it’s a team effort in helping this child grow. It takes a lot of people to do that.”