Herkimer BOCES program helps graduates land jobs
at Masonic Care Community Child Care Center
July 24, 2014
Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES graduates make up 30 percent of the teaching staff at the Masonic Care Community’s Child Care Center in Utica. The six teachers and teacher’s assistants who graduated from BOCES are pictured here at the center, from left to right with their maiden names in parentheses where applicable: Colleen (Getman) VanNort, a 2006 graduate of Herkimer; Ashely Randt, a 2009 graduate of West Canada Valley; Melissa (Mika) Penz, a 1999 graduate of Owen D. Young; Courtney Klock, a 2010 graduate of Herkimer; Beth (Randall) Burton, a 2003 graduate of Oppenheim- Ephratah, and Jessica (Brown) Johnson, a 2005 graduate of Mount Markham. The child care educators went through the Herkimer BOCES early childhood education program, which has been renamed the child and family services program to allow for additional opportunities. For information, call 315-867-2000.
Six of the 20 teachers and teacher’s assistants at the Masonic Care Community Child Care Center in Utica are graduates of the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES early childhood education program, which is being renamed this year as the child and family services program.
The quality experience of educating children of various ages while at Herkimer BOCES is what made so many BOCES graduates strong candidates for jobs there, said Elizabeth Reardon, director of child care at the Masonic Care Community Childcare Center.
Reardon recently pulled out a large folder of resumes in her office and turned to the “education” section of the application – a place where seeing “Herkimer BOCES” can be beneficial for potential employees.
“Before I have to flip any further, that catches my attention – it’s a phenomenal two-year program,” Reardon said. “When I see it on their resume, I go, ‘Great.’ It is a wonderful program because it has toddler and pre-school experience.”
The Herkimer BOCES program – now called child and family services – allows high-school juniors to work with 3- and 4-year-olds in a nursery school class at BOCES. High-school seniors in the program work with 2-year-olds in the toddler playgroup and have the opportunity for off-campus internships in the spring.
With the name change, the program’s curriculum will remain the same, but there will be additional opportunities to individualize internships in either a classroom setting or one of the many related helping professions such as human service agencies, program instructor Kim Fragetta said.
“Due to the fact that early childhood educators/child care providers wear many different hats on the job, the name change to child and family services is a natural and logical choice,” Fragetta said. “We not only promote the education and cognitive development of the child, but we focus on the development of the whole child. Children’s nutrition, health, physical and social/emotional development are equally important. Because parents are partners in the learning process for their child, the child and family services name is more encompassing.”
Fragetta and Reardon said the connection between Herkimer BOCES and the Masonic Care Community Child Care Center isn’t something that is planned or particularly recommended to BOCES students, but instead is something that happened naturally due to the experience BOCES students bring to the job and the opportunities that the center offers.
Child care teachers require 30 hours of additional training every two years, and Fragetta serves as the site facilitator at Herkimer BOCES for videoconference training once per month through the Rockefeller College of SUNY Albany.
During recent training sessions, Fragetta realized that many of the attendees not only were her former students but also currently work at the Child Care Center.
“I started seeing them come in, and I started to notice,” Fragetta said. “I said, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize how many work at Masonic Home.’”
Not only do Herkimer BOCES students have hands-on experience with children of different ages, but they also have been introduced to state regulations and setting up classrooms, Reardon said.
The qualifications for teaching jobs at the Child Care Center vary depending on the position – with head teachers requiring a two-year degree or a work-study plan for going to college along with having two years of experience. Teacher’s assistants can be hired out of high-school, and additional experience is beneficial, Reardon said.
“This is a career,” she said.
A couple of the teachers needed infant/toddler experience in order to be state certified as head teachers, and they were able to be approved because of their experience at BOCES working with the toddler playgroup, Reardon said.
“It’s really amazing,” Fragetta said. “Here they are with two-year college degrees, but what helped them get their job – due to licensing requirements – is their BOCES toddler playgroup.”
Courtney Klock, head teacher in the “roadrunners room” for 2-year-olds at the Child Care Center, graduated from Herkimer BOCES and Herkimer Central School District in 2010. The BOCES program helped in her career – allowing her to learn about regulations and working with children, she said.
“It teaches you not just the school, but hands-on because you could go to college for so many years but not ever get to work with children,” Klock said.
‘Educate through play’
In total, the Masonic Care Community Child Care Center is state-licensed for 66 children across six classrooms: the “infants room” for children 6 weeks to 12 months old, the “waddlers room” for children 12 to 24 months old, the “roadrunners room for 2-year-olds, the “senior tykes room” for children 2˝ to 3 years old, the “junior Einsteins room” for children 3 to 5 years old (usually on the younger end) and the “senior Einsteins room” for children 3 to 5 years old (usually on the older end and preparing to start kindergarten).
Every detail at this secure facility is thought out – such as putting artwork in the hallways at eye level, designing the classrooms while on their knees, placing Play Dough and beads in the writing area of the “senior Einsteins room” to help children build up the strength needed for writing and having puzzles in the mathematics area to prepare them for the problem-solving skills needed in math.
“We are the foundation of childhood education,” Reardon said. “We keep layering it and layering it.”
Herkimer BOCES students gain experience in planning as seniors by arranging the classroom – coming up with a floor plan and justifying each decision, Fragetta said.
“They get to see – does it work and does it need to be tweaked,” she said.
Each room at the Masonic Child Care Center has various educational stations and space for fun activities such as stacking blocks or looking at tree bark and other interesting items collected by the groundskeeper.
“We’re really bringing education to life,” Reardon said.
The students also have time each day to go outside or do obstacle courses in the hallway if the weather isn’t cooperating. Additionally, students participate each year in International Mud Day.
“We educate through play,” Reardon said. “That is what we do here.”
Colleen VanNort, a 2006 graduate of Herkimer BOCES and Herkimer Central School District, is a teacher’s assistant in the “infants room” at the Masonic Child Care Center. Herkimer BOCES helped with preparing lesson plans and learning activities, as well as hands-on experience, she said.
“It gives you an all-around experience because you work with different ages, and it helps you decide what type of early childhood career experience you want to go into,” VanNort said.
The “waddlers room” teacher, Melissa Penz, and teacher’s assistant, Beth Burton, both graduated from Herkimer BOCES.
Burton, who graduated from BOCES and Oppenheim-Ephratah in 2003, said she knew she wanted to go into a child care career. BOCES allowed her to find out what it’s like to work with children of different ages and helped her obtain her goal of working in the field, she said.
Penz, who graduated from BOCES and Owen D. Young in 1999, agreed that the BOCES program was beneficial – such as helping her with learning how to write out and implement lesson plans, working with curriculum, following through and observing for evaluations.
“It was a lot of hands-on experience,” Penz said. “For me, this is something I always knew I wanted to do, so I think it was a great opportunity to get to work with the children.”
Jessica Johnson graduated from Herkimer BOCES and Mount Markham in 2005 and started working at the Child Care Center right away as a teacher’s assistant.
“It was wonderful,” Johnson said, of the BOCES program. “It gave me hands-on experience working with children and behind the scenes with lesson planning and things like that.”
Before starting at Herkimer BOCES as a junior, Johnson knew she was interested in child care, but she hadn’t decided for sure about making it a career, she said.
“I was on the fence about it, and that made my decision,” she said. “I was able to work with children, and it made me realize I love working with children.”
Ashley Randt, who graduated from Herkimer BOCES and West Canada Valley in 2009, is the teacher in the “infants room.” Her Herkimer BOCES experience helped her get the job even more than her college degree, she said.
“It helped me a lot with how to deal with different behaviors and how to keep the attention of children,” Randt said.
Like Johnson, Randt also used Herkimer BOCES to help her figure out what she wanted to do for her career.
“I knew I really liked childcare, but the BOCES program definitely helped me to decide,” she said. “I would highly recommend it because we had a lot of fun, and it was great experience.”