Monday, September 28, 2020

Early Childhood Ed Students Remain Committed

In uncertain times, CVTC students anxious to fill big need for childcare workers

Eau Claire, WI – Amber Schmidt has cause for concern about going into the childcare and education field during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a cancer survivor with a daughter who has also had health problems, she wonders if they are more at risk of serious complications should one of them contract the disease.

Nevertheless, Amber is moving forward, both as a current employee at the Wisconsin Early Autism Project in Eau Claire and a second-year student headed for May graduation in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Early Childhood Education program. Other students say they, too, are anxious to work in the field in these uncertain times, especially during an ongoing shortage of childcare workers.

“I always wanted to be a teacher since I was really young,” Amber said. “When working with these kids at the Autism Project, I thought I always wanted to go to college, and I’ve always wanted to work with kids, so it was time to do it.”

She is certainly needed. “High quality childcare workers have been in high demand for years – every year we hear of centers that are short staffed and looking for high quality, well trained staff,” said Kathy Preusse, CVTC Early Childhood Education instructor. “There are areas called ‘childcare deserts’ throughout the country, which means that there is limited access of goodnlicensed childcare centers. Western Wisconsin is one of these areas.”

“It is a struggle to find employees who have the skills and the dedication to fill the job openings that we have in this field, Loralie Wallerius, owner of Days Gone By Early Learning in Eau Claire. Many childcare programs operate on tight budgets with sparse staffing. The Chippewa Valley is fortunate to have the Early Childhood programs at CVTC. They have proven invaluable to us over the years.”

Amber felt a calling. A 1999 graduate of Black River Falls High School, she worked at an electric motor manufacturer for several years. Personal experience drew her closer to her dream.

“My daughter and brother have autism,” she said. “I was a stay-at-home mom for 11 years and home schooled Kayle for three years. Then I had cancer and went to chemotherapy and into remission.”

In November 2018, she came to CVTC for a tour, applied that day and is on her way to a May 2021 graduation.

Amber says she has thought about the dangers of COVID-19 but tries to keep it in perspective.

“I have always been a germaphobe, so I take extra precautions,” she said. “I have had health problems before but have thought it’s not going to be this scary forever, and kids always need someone to nurture them.”

Amber plans to continue to work for the Early Autism Project but wants to go on and earn her bachelor’s degree in special education.

Jeri Biesen of Osseo felt a passion like Amber’s when her twin girls were born in 2014 and another daughter in 2017. “Having them kind of triggered in me an interest in the education aspects of working with children,” she said. “So, I got a job last year at Little Bloomers Early Learning Community in Eau Claire.

The 2007 Osseo-Fairchild High School graduate worked for a few years with a cleaning company, but she was already thinking about college. “Working with the children and the whole atmosphere at Little Bloomers really interested me, so I enrolled at CVTC.”

Biesen said the COVID-19 pandemic worried her some, especially at the beginning, when so little was known about it and how it spreads. It changed day-to-day procedures at Little Bloomers. Teachers are now meeting the parents outside at their cars, where they go over a list of COVID-related questions.

“It’s still stressful, but we’ve settled into a routine on it,” Biesen said.

Caitlin Crosby, 35, of Eau Claire, was inspired to enter the Early Childhood Education program when she volunteered at her daughter’s kindergarten class.

“I am personally not worried about COVID-19,” Crosby said. “Adults get sick and children get sick. You make adjustments as needed.”

Crosby has been through a CVTC program before, becoming a CNA. “But I decided to go back and get my degree,” she said. “I’m thinking of starting a care center or trying to get into a school district as a teacher.”


“CVTC is working to educate Early Childhood professionals who will step up to the challenge of supporting our children and parents,” Wallerius said. “We value the opportunity to partner with CVTC as a site that provides practicum training for students and proudly employ 13 CVTC graduates.”

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