More Than Just Babysitters
Lori Belcher spent 22 years as a school bus driver before entering the Early Childhood Education program at New River Community College. Before that, she had a wide variety of jobs including managing a horse ranch, working on a dairy farm and even working on flight instruments for fighter jets. But through all that, she discovered that working in early childhood education was her true calling. When she talks about her profession, that passion comes through.
“I will tell you a little secret: most people think that preschool teachers are babysitters. There’s a whole lot more to it than that. We plan meaningful activities that are relevant to where children are in their development to help them move toward their next level of development.”
Lori first had an inkling she might want to pursue a career in childhood development when she was working as a bus driver for her local school system in Blacksburg. She initially took the job as a way to provide care for her children while they were in school, giving her the summers off to be with them when school was out.
“One of the things I noticed driving a school bus was that when children started school, they were really unprepared and a lot of them were terrified. I loved being a four-year-old. I remember being four. It was so much fun and I want all children to have that experience.”
The real push though came when her daughter was registering for college at New River and looking at the available courses. She read about the Early Childhood Education program and knew it would be perfect for her mother. Lori enrolled and went on to earn her associate degree in the ECE program at New River and still uses what she learned in the program every day in her current role as an assistant teacher at the Blacksburg Head Start program.
“I still use some of the materials I made as an intern. In my portfolio there are songs and sometimes I just need a new song because we use a lot of songs to transition. A transition period is where you’re moving the children from one activity to another; it kind of controls the chaos. It helps them to focus on the fact that we’re moving and to say ‘okay we’re transitioning from this to this now.’”
In addition to the materials she still uses daily from her time at New River, she also recognizes the faculty in the program for giving her the confidence and skills she needed to pursue her career.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my interactions with the faculty; they were very supportive. They want to see people succeed and I never got the feeling that it was because their jobs depended on it. It was because they cared about the people going out into the community. I was never made to feel stupid when I had a question. I never felt out of place for going back to school later.”
For those thinking about enrolling in the program, Lori has this to add: “The program is worthwhile. It’ll help prepare you for the experiences that you’ll encounter in the field after your graduate. It’ll build your confidence to face those experiences.”