A curiosity about learning and development leads Sharon Jose to Early Childhood Education

Sharon Jose was teaching at a college in Kerala, India when she realized that each student has their own unique learning style. Wanting to understand how people begin to learn and develop, Sharon started researching online and discovered Early Childhood Education.

“Children are like sponges, they grasp everything,” said Sharon. “I wanted to learn more about child development and so I enrolled myself at Fleming College.”

Sharon, who is graduating this week, describes her time at Fleming College as “truly spectacular and memorable.” She arrived at the Sutherland Campus not knowing anyone and was greeted by friendly student volunteers at the International Student Orientation who guided her through the school and instantly made Sharon feel welcomed, included, and part of the Fleming family.

Her favourite experience was celebrating Canada Day and attending the Cultural Showcase event, which Sharon describes as great opportunities to learn from each other.

“As an International student, I was thrilled to learn about the cultures, traditions, and lifestyles of students from various parts of the world,” said Sharon. “It was on celebratory days like these that made me realize how unique and special each of us are. Each student was proud to share their knowledge of their culture to all those seeking to learn. The singing competition, dance competition, Holi celebration, rangoli, pin the tail on the beaver, and face painting are some of the best experiences and memories I’ll never forget.”

Sharon also made lasting memories in her ECE program and won’t soon forget the amazing support she felt from her Fleming faculty.

“My professors were very supportive and great motivators, especially Tanya Pye. She has always been there for me, at all times,” said Sharon. “Tanya has inspired me in many ways and is one of my role models. Any student could count on her and we knew we had a professor to share our happiness and troubles. Our voice was heard and what we said did matter.”

Sharon currently works as an Early Childhood Educator at Nursery Two Child Care, and strongly believes this program prepares graduates for the field. She especially appreciates the program’s work placements, where students put their theoretical education to work in a child care environment.

“I personally found the placements to play a huge role in my understanding of theoretical knowledge, as I was able to see for myself and gain the first-hand experience of what I was learning in class,” said Sharon. “This was a bonus in not just my assignments but also in terms of being employed. I currently work at the site I had done my placement during my period of study.”

When she wasn’t in class, studying or working on a project, Sharon kept busy on campus. She worked part-time as an International Student Ambassador, was an Executive Member of the Fleming College Catholic Club, raised awareness of drinking responsibly as a DrinkSmart Student Ambassador, helped others on campus as a Peer Mentor, and volunteered with Student Life, Enactus Fleming, the Student Administrative Council Street Team, and more.

Because of Sharon’s numerous contributions on campus, she was awarded the Renie Steele Award from the Student Administrative Council. And now, Sharon is being recognized as Valedictorian for the School of Justice and Community Development – Community Development Programs convocation.

“I am truly humbled and honoured to have been selected as the Valedictorian and grateful to God,” said Sharon, who won the School of Justice & Community Development Academic Achievement Award.

“My message to all my fellow graduates is to be true to themselves and not be quitters,” said the Class of 2019 graduate. “All of us are winners and deserve to be proud of ourselves for the effort, hard work, and determination. All of us have stories to share, memories to keep forever, and experiences that became our best teachers.”

Early Childhood Education students make nature their classroom

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Dean Carol Kelsey (left), ECE students who took the Eco-Mentorship Certificate program, and Mary Lou Lummiss (right)

Today’s child spends more than seven hours in front of a glowing screen and less than 30 minutes per day in unstructured outdoor play, but Fleming’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) students hope to change that.

On Friday, April 21, Dean Carol Kelsey presented a group of ECE students with their Eco-Mentorship Certificate during the Quality Childcare Displays event in the Sutherland Campus Galleria. The optional certificate program is an innovative collaboration between Camp Kawartha and Fleming College.

“When I heard about the certificate I thought it was an exciting opportunity, something to put on my resume, and good skills to learn that I can use on the job,” said ECE student Amanda Clement, who has since been hired as a Registered ECE at Compass Early Learning and Care at St. Teresa Catholic Elementary School. “I grew up in Haliburton and I enjoy being outside, and being outside was a part of my childhood.”

To earn her Eco-Mentorship Certificate, Amanda had to complete four interactive workshops: Building Children’s Understanding of the World through Environmental Exploration, The Power of Play – Establishing a Personal Connection to Nature, Fostering and Nurturing Stewardship, and Experiencing Being a Part of Nature from an Indigenous Perspective. Through the workshops, students learn to integrate outdoor and nature-based activities, connect children to the natural world, integrate Indigenous ways of knowing and learning, and help foster a generation committed to the stewardship of the planet.

Amanda Clement
Amanda Clement with her Quality Childcare Display

“It was fun learning what’s available in our ‘neighbour-wood’ through this certificate,” said Amanda, who created a bicycle outline on the grass using found objects. “You don’t need to purchase materials and, as a college student, that is excellent.”

Her favourite moment was finding a sit spot to find wellness and peace. “When you go out with kids, they notice something new. It’s such a heartwarming moment,” said Amanda.

ECE professor Mary Lou Lummiss helped redesign this certificate program for Fleming College during her professional sabbatical. She worked with Jacob Rodenburg, Executive Director of Camp Kawartha; attended environmental camps, training opportunities, conducted research, and read several books on mentoring children in the outdoors.

“The ECE program at Fleming shares a widely held belief that being connected to nature is something that is slowly eroding from children’s lives. Research on the benefits of nature connections for children offers insight on the important role parents and educators play in this work,” said Mary Lou.

“ECE faculty wanted to set our program apart by offering a certificate that focuses on the role of the educator, seeing nature through an Indigenous lens, and provide strategies the educator can use with all age groups. We also have been focusing on sustainability within almost all of our courses, so it was a natural fit for us,” she explained.

Mary Lou recommends ECE students take this certificate to gain valuable insight into the affordances of nature, build on children’s natural curiosity to engage them more fully in outdoor learning, and identify barriers in the workplace and seek solutions.

“One student mentioned that she sees the outside and her time with children outdoors much differently now,” said Mary Lou. “Another student let us know that she was recently hired and that her new employer was very interested in her certificate and her passion for the outdoors. She feels it was a key reason why she was chosen for the job.”

Fleming College’s ECE program has an extremely high rate of related employment for graduates. This program prepares students to help young children develop their physical, social and intellectual skills, and their self-confidence and imagination. All courses are based on a philosophy that encourages inclusive practice and partnerships with families.