Basalt center director uses college degree to further career

By Mike McKibbin

Adele Matthee always wanted to work in a child care facility.

She realized that goal with the help of Colorado Mountain College’s Aspen Campus, where she earned her associate degree in early childhood education (ECE) in 2007.
Now the director of Growing Years Preschool in Basalt, Matthee plans to enroll at Colorado State University in Fort Collins this fall to get her bachelor’s degree.

“I had been working on getting state certified (as a day care operator)” before enrolling at CMC, Matthee said.

Current campus CEO Joe Maestas was her counselor in 2005 and helped her to realize she was very close to meeting the degree requirements. Like most students, Matthee worked full time at Growing Years during the day and took evening classes to earn her degree.

Her CMC degree allowed her to become the school’s director when the position came open, Matthee said. Growing Years enrolls up to 35 kids from about 30 families during the winter months, when more local workers, such as teachers, live in the area, she said.

Margaret Maxwell, instructional chair at CMC’s Aspen Campus, said the early childhood education program has grown over the past two years, to an average of about 18 students per class.

“Part of the reason we’re seeing more demand is that state licensing requirements will change in May 2010,” Maxwell said. “There will be different and more stringent rules for group leader and director certification through the Colorado Department of Human Services – Division of Childcare.”

That has led more child care centers to send their providers to CMC for further schooling, she said.

Maxwell said she believes the quality of instruction CMC provides is high. “That may be another contributing factor to the growth we’ve seen and the quality of education we can provide,” she added.

Providing education for students with differing needs

Shirley Ritter is director of the Kids First child care resource center in Aspen serving Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties. The office helps families find licensed day care for their children, and provides grants to child care programs and scholarships to students, she said. Staff members teach at the CMC Aspen Campus, Ritter said.

Ritter knows Matthee and her plans to further her early childhood education, and feels Matthee is pretty representative of a CMC program graduate.

“The vast majority probably go to the level where they meet the state requirements for child care director qualifications,” Ritter said. “But some realize this is something they can do to contribute to their professional growth, their family and their community, so they’ll go on to a four-year college.”

Others enter the field with a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field, Ritter added, and take ECE classes at Colorado Mountain College to meet state requirements, but then realize that they could go on with their education by possibly earning a master’s degree in early childhood education, development or special education.

The CSU program in human development and family studies Matthee plans to enroll in was designed for those with two-year associate degrees, she noted.

“I don’t think a lot of people know about this (CMC) degree,” Matthee said.

“It was great,” Matthee said, referring to the opportunity she was granted by learning at Colorado Mountain College. “I wish more younger people would get into this, because this is a degree they can use.”