In the far southwest corner of the College of the Canyons Valencia campus, nestled in a quiet ravine between a few large oak trees, lies the COC Center for Early Childhood Education—a spacious facility dedicated to instruction of preschool aged children and professionals who wish to enter the early education field.
The expansive center however, which currently employs 51 staff members and features a number of classrooms, a multipurpose room, and an outdoor playground, grew from humble roots.
On Saturday, Aug. 19 employees past and present, families and college administrators gathered to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the program and to reflect on the many figures who helped transform the center from a small office within the administration building into the institution it is today.
The event, according to the program’s department chair Cindy Stevens, was a symbolic passing of the torch from the center’s pioneers to its future leaders.
“This is a celebration of our 35th anniversary,” she said. “We’re establishing new leadership, so it’s kind of bittersweet.”
Prominently featured in the celebration was Diane M. Stewart, who has served as the Dean of the program since its inception.
College of the Canyons chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook began the ceremony with a speech praising Stewart for her role in bringing the Early Childhood Development program to life.
“She works extremely hard and always sees the positive in everything,” Van Hook said in her speech.
And Stewart’s hard work has paid off.
According to Dr. Van Hook’s address, the Early Childhood Development center has now instructed over 5,000 children and has trained approximately 1,800 preschool teachers.
Dr. Van Hook praised the program’s community outreach and expressed great pride that 48 of the 51 employees at the center received their qualifications at College of the Canyons.
Monica Marshall exemplifies this quite well; after becoming a mother she enrolled her children in the program and was then inspired to get her own degree so that she could contribute to the center.
Marshall has now been an active member in the program for 25 years.
Many other attendees echoed this sentiment and shared their excitement for the new directions in which the center’s half and full-day programs are moving.
Quickly becoming a main tenant of the center’s new curriculum is outdoor learning, in which children receive regular instruction outdoors.
“We are a play based program and we have been implementing the outdoor classroom project,” said Marshall. “This is a national initiative that involves children valuing the outdoors.”
While ever changing, the program remains committed to the values which it has fostered over the past 35 years—play-based learning, quality professional instruction, effective community outreach and a love of children.
“We see that children don’t come with violence or prejudice,” said Stewart in the final moments of her speech.
“We learn from children. And with everything I’ve learned, I keep coming back to what I’ve learned from them,” she said, drawing a close to her instrumental career.