|The magazine of University of Houston-Clear Lake
Spring/Summer 2013 | volume 19 | number 2
Learning in the Middle
Overwhelmed is a fair description of Lorena Counterman’s feeling the day she learned she had been promoted from school secretary to child care center director at the Friendswood Christian School. After four years as secretary, she knew her new position would require working closely with the staff and handling parents’ expectations, but her most important concern was providing a good experience to the children.
Counterman quickly shifted her college major from social work to early childhood education, taking classes first at San Jacinto Community College then transferring to UHCL when she learned of its Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education.
The program includes a leadership track designed specifically for individuals like her: child care facility directors, owners and education specialists. The program appealed to Counterman because it wasn’t only about how to run a school, it also included a lot of classroom experience working directly with the children. Nearly every course calls for child observations and case studies that require students to be in the classroom engaging with the children. It is one of the things she has appreciated the most.
“It’s the same way they taught us to teach children, with hands-on experience,” says Counterman.
Time spent at the San Jacinto Lab School, an early childhood facility UHCL uses in the BAS program, as well as visits to other centers, helped Counterman compare and learn about changes she needed to implement.
“I’m not just learning and then I’m going to go find a job,” says Counterman. “I’m smack in the middle of it. I’m learning every day.”
Counterman began incorporating what she was learning in the BAS program right away, restructuring the center’s program and curriculum, and found the UHCL faculty support invaluable.
“They give you opportunities to take personal experiences, and help you come up with a plan. Or encourage you, which a lot of them did.”
It’s a two-way street though. Counterman believes that her real-time experience helped bring light to a child care problem that needs to be addressed: what is healthy sexual development behavior in young children. She acknowledges that it’s a tough subject to talk about, but believes it is an important one because the state requires her staff to be trained in recognizing signs of child abuse. When children act out, it’s easy for teachers to jump to the wrong conclusion to explain the child’s behavior. With her professor’s assistance, Counterman’s BAS research paper, “Exploring a Better Understanding of Healthy Sexual Development in Young By Jean Rudnicki Children,” has been accepted by the National Association of Education for Young Children for publication in the Voices of Practitioners.
Counterman, who juggles family, career and school priorities, expects to complete her BAS degree next year and looks forward to pursuing a master’s degree.
To Queen Okoloise, the BAS program has been a step on the path to her dream of having her own childcare center, as well as earning a doctorate degree.
“I want to teach teachers how to teach children,” says Okoloise.
Passionate about making a difference in the lives of young children, she had to put her desire on hold 18 years ago as a single mom with a son to raise and a career in the fashion industry. Something was missing though and as soon as she was able, Okoloise returned to classes and earned an associate degree at SJCC.
She now works full-time at the San Jacinto Lab School and was among the first enrollees in UHCL’s BAS program. She completed her degree in December 2012 and is now enrolled in the Master of Science in Early Childhood Education program.
“When you have more education you cannot just educate the children, but you can also educate the parents as well,” says Okoloise. “You can do more when you have higher education.”
Her passion is driven in part by her own experience. Parents today work hard to make ends meet.
“They leave their children with us. I would like to give the children that come into my classroom the right tools to become successful in life. What they learn at this age is what is going to carry them through in the future.”
Okoloise says the BAS professors encourage students to network and to develop a strong support system among themselves, and it has been one of the key benefits of the program.
“We still talk to each other. We share ideas, and if we have questions, we talk to one another.”
Bachelor of Applied Science degrees are specialized programs designed for students who are employed in specific fields and are looking to update their knowledge and advance their careers.
UHCL offers three Bachelor of Applied Science degrees, one each in the School of Business, the School of Education and the School of Science and Computer Engineering. The courses concentrate on technical knowledge and include an emphasis on hands-on experience. They are often an extension of an Associate of Applied Science degree received from a community college.
When the government mandated tougher educational requirements for child care workers, UHCL worked in collaboration with local community colleges to provide an option for a four-year degree program with three tracks: Educator of Young Children, Young Children with Disabilities, and Early Childhood Program Leadership. The program is targeted for child care center owners, directors and other child care professionals.
The degree provides students with allied health course credits a quicker route in preparation for entry-level management positions in the health care industry. To be eligible for admission to this BAS program, applicants must have either an Associate of Applied Science in an allied health field or a minimum of 12 credits in an allied health field. The program prepares individuals with an allied health background such as nursing, pharmacy technician, health information management, etc.
This program provides technical knowledge with practical, hands-on training. Graduates will be ready to design, implement and maintain the information technology infrastructure used in business management. It prepares students in a variety of careers such as systems administrator, network administrator, computer specialist, database manager, computer technician, computer security manager or computer systems manager for work within commercial, industrial, educational and government institutions.
To learn more, contact a UHCL transfer adviser: 281-283-3068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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