CNCC gets new Early-Childhood Education program director

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“I hate that term. First off, obviously we don’t sit on babies. Secondly, we don’t just deal with babies, early childhood actually spans from zero to eight.”

— Judi Whilden, program director of the early-childhood education program at CNCC about the term “babysitting”

Judi Whilden is redefining the term “babysitting” and all the ideas associated with it.

As the first program director for the Early-Childhood Education program at Colorado Northwestern Community College, Whilden brings a plethora of ideas to the table, including the deconstruction of the terms babysitting and babysitter.

“I hate that term. First off, obviously, we don’t sit on babies. Secondly, we don’t just deal with babies; early childhood actually spans from zero to 8,” Whilden said.

With 18 years of experience owning and running her own early-childhood education center, Sunrise Kids, and completing her master’s degree in early-childhood education with a licensure in special education from the University of Colorado in December, Whilden said she has the experience it takes to push the program further.

“I have all this experience to share,” Whilden said. “It’s more than reading out of a textbook; it makes it 3-D for students.”

Part of her plan includes community outreach and a three-part workshop for youths ages 12 to 18.

Although still in the planning stage, Whilden said the course would help prepare young people to care for and watch children ages birth to 8.

Whilden said the first session would introduce the stages and behaviors to expect from children birth to 8. The second workshop would cover first aid and CPR, and the third would be a hands-on workshop where young people interact with children.

Participants would receive a certificate upon completion of the program.

Whilden said she hopes young people will walk away with more knowledge and background about caring for children. She also said participants would be better prepared to step into a home to watch someone’s children. She said that after taking the course, participants would know to bring a contact list to be filled out by parents and an age-appropriate goody bag as well as have a better understanding of their role.

Whilden said that often times, young people think watching children equates to keeping the child busy with a movie or toy and then talking on the phone or sitting on the couch.

“I want them to not be afraid to sit down on the floor and play,” Whilden said. “Be interactive, read books, do puzzles and play games. There are so many resources for ideas. I think they don’t know what to do, so they don’t do anything.”

Whilden stressed that just because participants complete the course does not qualify them to step into the role of an early-childhood education teacher. For that, more hours of training are required.

Another aspect of community outreach will be visits to area high schools to raise awareness among students about concurrent enrollment. Concurrent enrollment allows high school students to take college courses and earn credits while still in high school.

As for her role as an instructor, Whilden said it is a big change moving from daily contact with 3- to 5-year-olds to teaching future educators, but it’s one she welcomes.

Whilden said she plans to start a new cohort of students in the program in the spring, meaning students will move from one class to the next as a group, rather than individual programs.

“It’s great because they can create a network where they can help and depend on each other. They get to know one another and feed and learn from each other,” Whilden said.

Whilden said to be an early-childhood education teacher, you need to love kids, be caring, patient and knowledgeable as well as exhibit empathy.

Whilden said early-childhood education teachers play an important role in preparing young children for kindergarten, saying much of a child’s cognitive, social, physical and emotional development happen between birth and age 5.

“I’m really excited and feel honored that CNCC has the confidence in me to do this job,” Whilden said. “I absolutely love my new job.”

Darian Warden can be reached at 875-1793 or dwarden@craigdailypress.com

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