The History of the Early Childhood Program

In 1989, the Early Childhood Education academic department was created under the auspices of Dr. Terry Dezso. Terry came to the college with a wealth of experience and a passion for teaching students at the college level. Her advocacy work combined with a strong Montessori Early Childhood Education philosophy led to the development of a unique ECE teacher preparation model at the college. Barbara Barton, served as the Program Coordinator and brought her unique Montessori, Peaceful Conferences and generous spirit to the Early Childhood Community. The program evolved and became the first program in the state of CT to offer both an early childhood degree and a high quality Montessori Teacher Certification (AMS) program that was supported with local Montessori experts including Cindy Fish, Melissa Canova and Chris Sacerdote.

In 2004, upon Terry’s retirement the torch was passed to Sheila Skahan to continue the legacy of providing a high quality early childhood education academic program that reflected the changing needs of early childhood professionals in the community. Sheila combined her experiences, creative approaches and energy to strengthen the existing program and to bring new ECE initiatives to the college. The program grew with the addition of Dr. Jennifer DeFrance who arrived as the former President of Rhode Island’s NAEYC and Quality Rating Scale expert. Jennifer has added online teaching and expert advising and planning to our program. Other favorite adjuncts with longstanding years of service include Dr. Mark Frizzell, special education expert and former High School Principal at Griswold High School, John Cormier, school psychologist at Griswold, and UConn Special Education Doctoral Candidate, Heather Bassett who teaches an array of inclusive classes. In 2012, the college ECE program became accredited by NAEYC higher education division.

In the fall of 1988, Sharon Lincoln a compassionate, spirited former, Connecticut College graduate was hired to direct the Child Development Center for pre-school aged children on the Mohegan campus of TRCC. Initially conceived as a part time service program to provide for the child care needs of young children while parents were in classes, it quickly grew into a full day full year program that also served the community. With the inception of the ECE academic department in 1989, it served as a laboratory school for observation and practicum experiences for ECE students. In 1999, the child care program achieved national accreditation through the National Association of Early Childhood Education. In 2008, with the co-location of the two Three Rivers Community College campuses to one site on New London Turnpike, a new Child Development Center was designed and built. This new facility provided expanded options for children and their families. In 2008, due to financial changes, the college chose to contract out to the community for child care services. Most recently, “Little Learners” and Director Nicole Umphlett are now the host provider for the college’s child care.

Twenty six years after the program’s inception in 1989, the ECE department has grown from one faculty member to two full time and seven adjunct faculty members supporting close to 100 students. The students range from child care center professionals taking one or two courses for professional development purposes to recent high school graduates who are achieving an Associate Degree on their way to a four year college and teaching certification

The ECE Profession

The Early Childhood Profession is undergoing significant changes and growth. The National Association of Educators for Young Children (NAEYC) has established the following criteria to improve the quality of services for children and to raise the professionalism of the early childhood workforce. http://smartstart-fc.org/naeyc/

NAEYC’s efforts are designed to achieve these ends:

1. All children have access to a safe and accessible, high quality early childhood education that includes a developmentally appropriate curriculum; knowledgeable and well-trained program

staff and educators; and comprehensive services that support their health, nutrition, and social well-being, in an environment that respects and supports diversity.

2. All early childhood professionals are supported as professionals with a career ladder, ongoing professional development opportunities, and compensation that attracts and retains high quality educators.

3. All families have access to early childhood education programs that are affordable and of high quality and actively participate in their children’s education as respected reciprocal partners.

4. All communities, states, and the nation work together to ensure accountable systems of high-quality early childhood education for all children.