When Student Becomes the Teacher
As students at Danville Community College start their Early Childhood Education classes, they likely will be far from intimated. With Traci Daniel at the front of the classroom, they’re in good hands. Why? Because 16 years earlier, she was sitting in their exact seat.
Once she realized the four-year university life wasn’t for her, Traci soon found a different path at her local community college, where she started to work at the childcare center on campus as a teacher, while simultaneously attending school as a student herself.
“When I discovered the childcare field, I thought, ‘Woah, this is something I would love to do,’” she said. “Getting to know the children, playing with them, getting to know the families. I was surprised you could go to school for Early Childhood Education. It was great.”
Traci continued her concurrent roles as teacher and student, and she would ultimately earn her associates degree in Early Childhood Education.
“I knew I never wanted to get a teaching license, because I didn’t want to go into the public school setting,” she said. “But once I started at the childcare program at DCC, and I learned more about the field, I realized all the vast opportunities there were.”
Traci moved her way up through the ranks, and she eventually became the director of the childcare center, while also serving as the internship instructor for students pursing their Associate’s at DCC. During this time, Traci also managed to squeeze in even more training, as she went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
She eventually moved on from the center, and she started working for a grant-funded program at the community college called, Finish Line, where she mentored students who had credits but never earned a credential or degree. She then took her skills to Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services where she served as a child and adolescent case manager, working with children and families through Early Intervention.
Even so, the Early Childhood Education calling from DCC was strong. She recently accepted the position as Program Director of Early Childhood Education at the college, and she’s ready to sing the praises of what an education in the field really means.
“I get excited when I see passionate students come in and get excited about the work,” she said. “Early Childhood Education is a profession. It’s not just a job, it’s a career. It’s not all about playing on the floor with babies (even though there is that). It’s about putting forth responsibility and the right mentality to help these children excel. It’s creating experiences that help set them up developmentally for the rest of their life.”