Walk into the child care centre at the Trafalgar Road Campus on any given morning, and you’ll likely be greeted by children examining how water cascades from a jug, searching for treasure in the sand table, or piling vibrant blocks into towers. In the middle of it all are Kara Thompson (ECE ’81, pictured left) and Nancy Simpson (ECE ’88, pictured right). Like thousands of Sheridan’s ECE alumni, they’ve spent their careers creating spaces where toddlers and preschoolers can thrive. It’s an important role in a world where, according to Statistics Canada, nearly half of Canadian families with children rely on child care, and ECEs become an integral part of the communities where they work.
Both Thompson and Simpson feel lucky to be in a profession where they can influence children’s lives. Thompson loves watching families develop friendships after their kids get to know each other. “It is rewarding and positive, to know you’ve been part of that connection,” she says.
There’s always been lots to love about their careers, including the fact that nothing stays the same. Many of the changes in their work reflect what’s happening in communities as a whole. Today, the children they care for represent a tapestry of backgrounds. Some are new to Canada, and they learn their first words of English at school from their teachers and peers. And Simpson can remember a time when computers were seen as new, must-have tools for the classroom. Now, even their youngest students instinctively know how to use a tablet or cell phone. Simpson says being part of the Sheridan community helps them stay on top of all the changes. Sheridan’s ECE faculty always share new research, and there’s also plenty to learn from the current students who come to the centre during field placements.
“That’s why working as a team is great,” she says. “You can pull on your team’s knowledge, ask for advice. You’re not alone.”
“Promoting the early years in a system that goes all the way up to grade 12 has been fantastic. I’ve been able to advocate for how important these early years are throughout (children’s) whole lives.”
That enthusiasm for learning is critical in a field burgeoning with new opportunities. ECEs are now just as likely to be in schools as daycare centres. Since Ontario’s provincial government launched full-day kindergarten in 2010, alumnae like Kelly-Ann Cameron (ECE ’15) have played an integral role in working with teachers to help four and five year olds adjust to school life. Cameron works full time with the Halton District School Board, and she recently spent a year as an ECE supervisor, working with educators and administrators to provide professional development to her ECE colleagues and teachers. She says it allows her to leave her mark on her community by building the knowledge her fellow educators can use in the classroom.