By Mike McKibbin

BUENA VISTA – Roberta Rodriguez had trouble learning in classrooms, but overcame that hurdle thanks to the staff, faculty and programs at Colorado Mountain College.

Photo of Roberta Rodriguez

CMC graduate and Buena Vista resident Roberta Rodriguez, right, receives her diplomas from Shane Larson, left, college vice president for student affairs, during CMC Leadville and Chaffee County’s May 4 commencement ceremony. Photo Andy Colwell

Buena Vista resident Rodriguez received her Associate of Applied Science degree in early childhood education on Friday, May 4, by taking most of her classes through a face-to-face web system that operates as a virtual classroom. Early childhood education associate degrees are not offered physically in Leadville or Buena Vista.

The main hurdles Rodriguez said she overcame to earn her degree were several learning disabilities. “I don’t have just one disability,” she said. “Some of them are cognitive, dyslexia and auditory. I have trouble with comprehension, too. If I’m in a large classroom and everyone’s talking, I can’t hear the instructor.”

Rodriguez said she read at a 5th-grade level before enrolling at CMC. “But when things are explained verbally, I get it,” she said.

‘Amazing support’

A long-time Buena Vista resident, Rodriguez, 41, is the mother of six children, ranging in age from college to high school to elementary school. A leader Rodriguez volunteered with in Girl Scouts encouraged her to pursue a degree that involved children. That led her to Professor Barbara Jackman, coordinator of early childhood education programs at Colorado Mountain College.

“She got me to realize this was something I can do and I just kept going,” Rodriguez said. “Now I really can’t believe I’m going to walk down the aisle to get my degree,” she said in the weeks before graduation.

Jackman said the program requires 60 credit hours of classes. The program is for those who want to become involved in the care of young children from birth to age 8. Courses in theory and lab experience are combined with a strong emphasis on field experiences.

Jackman said the CMC disability services program that Rodriguez took part in encourages students, faculty and staff to work as a team.

“We want to make sure there is support in place to bridge whatever disabilities a student has and set up situations so they can be successful,” Jackman said.

Jackman said it was that sense of teamwork that helped Rodriquez to succeed. The combination of the student’s hard work and abilities, along with support from CMC’s faculty, staff and disability services, made the difference in Rodriguez reaching her goals and earning her degree.

Tutoring is available when needed, Jackman said, and noted other students with similar disabilities who participated in the program have succeeded as well.

Rodriguez said she may seek bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education to help her land a job where she can help preschool children with disabilities similar to hers. CMC provided “amazing support and went beyond what I thought I needed,” Rodriguez said.

“I never had teachers that way in high school. They kept telling me that I’d never get into college with my disabilities,” she said. “I’m glad I can be a good role model for all my kids, especially one of my sons, who also has a learning disability.”