Vanessa Bigam Life Credits

My interest in working with young children comes from not only having children of my own, but also having spent fifteen years in the childcare industry in various teaching and administrative roles. Upon graduating from high school, I began my work in childcare as an assistant teacher of ages threes and fours and then moved on to another daycare facility in the position of head infant teacher. During this time, I was also pursuing a real estate license and was taking liberal arts courses at a community college. I soon realized that selling houses was not the career path I wished to continue and went on to work at another daycare facility, where I served as a lead teacher of three-year-old children and finally became the children’s program coordinator for the center. I credit this role as children’s program coordinator for where I am today in the childcare industry, which is serving as the assistant director of a church-based daycare/preschool center. One of the first things I did when I decided to further my career goals by working in the childcare industry was to obtain my CDA (Child Development Associate) credential which involved coursework, hours on the job, and a practical and written exam. With the CDA credential, I was able to have many other experiences in this field such as being actively involved in the development of early childhood programs: planning them, ordering supplies, and seeing them through to implementation. Through my experiences, I have taken on many different roles such as coordinating programs, directing birthday parties, teaching physical education enrichment classes, serving as a director’s assistant and being a summer camp director, which involved being solely responsible for all camp programs and activities.In my current position as the assistant director of a daycare/preschool center, I have been instrumental in implementing many new programs and seeing that the daycare/preschool meets all health and safety requirements as set by the NYS Office of Children and Family Services. When I first began at my current school in 2015, the dream of the school board was to add on an infant room to the class configuration. I was tasked with creating a plan for the infant room, which included working closely with a contractor regarding the best design and layout for the room and ensuring that the room had a sink and two egress doors according to regulations. When the newly constructed infant room became a reality and was almost ready to open and accept students in 2016, I was responsible for ordering all of the toys and equipment, which would be appropriate for children ages six weeks to eighteen months. In addition, I had to work with state and local agencies to ensure that everything was up to the fire code standards and that the room passed all of the occupancy inspections according to its square footage. I worked closely with the director through the hiring process to ensure that the best teachers were hired for our newly created infant room and worked with the school board to set the appropriate pricing, after studying prices of other neighborhood infant programs. When the first students came to the infant room in fall of 2016, it was a great success and finally the school that had always served only toddler and preschool children, now had an active infant department.Always trying to bring new programs and innovative ideas to the school, during 2016, I was able to work with the church property and grounds committee to establish an infant/toddler playground, which could be used by our infants and toddlers. The toddlers had always used the preschool playground, which was a large space with playground equipment that was actually not appropriate for them and could have been a safety hazard. I was able to get an area fenced in especially for infants and toddlers and ordered equipment and hade it installed for this age group, along with the required mulch that is needed for fall height on all children’s playgrounds. In addition, during the same year, I was able to create brand-new “Mommy and Me” classes, which involved finding a space and ensuring that it passed all state and local inspections. The “Mommy and Me” classes were held I the school’s gym and this took a lot of coordination and scheduling efforts, ensuring that the teacher was available to teach the classes and ordering equipment such as mats, tunnels, and trampolines to be used with the different age groups. These classes were advertised by using various media formats and proved to be a boost to the overall economy of the school, since many parents who came to the “Mommy and Me” classes, later enrolled their child in the school’s toddler or nursery program.I interact daily with children, parents and staff. I am involved in the hiring and termination of staff members, along with the using progressive discipline techniques for teachers and teaching assistants. I conduct teacher observations with my director, who has a master’s degree in early childhood education, along with NYS permanent certification in teaching grades N – 6, and YS permanent certification in educational administration. I have learned what to look for in an exemplary early childhood classroom, as well as what constitutes an excellent lesson, and know what “best practices” are in the early childhood classrooms. Besides obtaining my CDA, I am also MAT (medical administration training) certified, and my CPR and First Aid certification is current. I am the first line of defense in the office when there is an emergency with a child: applying first aid for nose bleeds, using pressure techniques to stop bleeding, administering nebulizer treatments, and taking out splinters. In addition to the on-the-spot medical emergencies, I have participated in writing the school health plan and have ensured that it is communicated to and followed by all staff members. I follow the NYS chain of command with respect to reporting accidents and incidents to our state agency, as well as being a mandated reporter to Child Protective Services if that is warranted. I also perform a myriad of other duties, including tours for incoming parents and students, enrolling children and maintaining all of the required paperwork for each child including up-to-date physicals and immunizations. I am responsible for marketing the school program and I have learned that a variety of marketing techniques work best, such as ads in print parenting magazines, online publications, large banners posted outside the school and social media campaigns. Marketing is a huge aspect of running a successful childcare program and I continually try to create effective marketing campaigns and figure out ways to better “sell” the school to prospective parents. In order to ensure that the school stays current with technology and other early childhood trends, I spearhead the parent teacher organization (the Parent Teacher Club), which is the main fundraising source for the school. In collaboration with parents, various fundraisers throughout the year are held, such as the Fall Harvest festival, the Valentine’s Day Dance and the Spring Carnival. Monies from these fundraisers have been used to purchase additional laptops, new playground equipment and a state-of-the art projection screen, which all enhance the school program.To ensure the everyday operation of the school, I must hire substitutes and do schedule adjustments to ensure that classes stay within the regulation child-to-adult ratio. In addition, I have to do schedules so that teachers receive their lunch breaks as dictated by NYS Labor Law and arrange all special classes and enrichment activities to fit into teacher’s schedules so that the school runs smoothly. The school follows all mandates for a voluntary NYS school certification and licensing, which means I have learned how to do NYS immunization reports, adhered to the Annual Fire Inspection and Food Services reports, and have done BEDs reporting, all of which must be done on a yearly basis.One of the main philosophies of my daycare/preschool is that learning is playful, interactive, interdisciplinary, and connected. Although some parents (and schools) believe that worksheets and rote drills of the alphabet or numbers are the correct ways to teach young children, research shows that children in an early childhood program learn best through play. It is the early childhood teacher’s role to be the facilitator of play and allow blocks of time for both indoor and outdoor play activity in an environment which is safe and inviting. According to James F. Christie and Francis Wardle (1992), longer blocks of playtime do make a difference in the quality and complexity of children’s play. For example, they studied early childhood classrooms with the same amount of materials and opportunities for play and they found that children who were only given a short play time, tended to wander around aimlessly, engage in solitary play or chase each other around the room. Children who were given longer play periods were involved in more complex projects, were more cooperative, and used various problem-solving techniques. Longer play periods foster group dramatic play, whereas children can act out a story and constructive play, whereas children can build complex structures and explain them. I have assisted the teachers in my daycare/school in adjusting their curriculum to create at least two indoor play sessions daily, which are over thirty minutes, as well as an outdoor session of thirty minutes or more. Table -top toys are generally used for fifteen minutes in the morning as children are arriving and the day is beginning, but this is understood that this additional play session does not count towards the required three play sessions daily. The entire school staff continues to educate parents regarding the value in longer play periods throughout the day it is explained at parent orientation nights that play in our school is a critical curriculum component. Since our daycare/school begins at age six weeks and continues through pre-K (fours), Mildred Parten’s research (1932) in the social interactions between children and play activities is clearly evident throughout the school. Infants engage in unoccupied play, which is making random movements, not really seeming to have a purpose; this is the beginning of play. In the infant and toddler years, there is a lot of onlooker and solitary play, but this can happen at any age. In solitary play, a child will play by himself/herself and will not notice other children are nearby. In onlooker play, children observe as others are playing, but do not attempt to join in. The next stage of play, according to Parten is parallel play, where children play side=by-side, but do not interact with each other. Parallel play lays the groundwork for the more complex stages of play which are associative and cooperative play. These stages occur around ages three and four. In associative play, the children begin to talk to each other and share materials and toys, but they really have no formal play organization. In cooperative play, the children organize themselves intentionally and may play a game with each other or build a structure together. It is very interesting to observe all of these stages as I visit classrooms and see the infants in the very early unoccupied play stage and then notice toddlers as they begin to develop in solitary, onlooker and parallel play stages. It is exciting to go into nursery and pre-k classrooms to actually see the associative and cooperative play taking play and realize how much the children are benefiting from these interactions. The cognitive development theories of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky are the most widely referenced when discussing play in early childhood development. Piaget (1962) believed that play allows children to practice things learned previously and does not necessarily teach child anything new. On the other hand, Vygotsky (1978) indicates that when playing, children practice what they already know, but are also learning new things. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development discusses what the child can learn with social interaction, guidance and encouragement, while Piaget maintains that cognitive development stems from independent exploration in which children form knowledge on their own. Vygotsky’s theories are especially evident in our school, since collaborative learning and intentional grouping of children with different abilities are widely used across classrooms in order for children to learn from their more advanced peers. It is only natural that I continue this career path, since I have already had so much valuable experience in the field of childcare. I plan to run a top-notch early-childhood center and consider myself to be knowledgeable in the areas of program administration, budgeting, marketing, professional development for teachers, and professional standards. Also, I plan to pursue NAEYC Accreditation for my early-childhood center, which will allow the entire school to engage in a self-study and strengthen any areas of weakness. I believe that I am proficient in the health, nutrition, safety and security aspects of running a center due to my many interactions with licensors from the Office of Children and Family Services and ensuring the welfare and safety of the children in all situations. I also believe my knowledge base is much stronger as it relates to the infant/toddler age groups as opposed to the pre-school age groups (three and four-year-old children), since my CDA credential was concentrated in the age groups of infants and toddlers. Our daycare/school recently passed a four-year licensing review, where all of these strengths were utilized. In addition, I was responsible for tracking and maintain staff trading records for forty staff members, who must do fifteen hours of training yearly on all early childhood competency areas as part of this review. When I assume the role of Director of this early- childhood center in January 2020, I know between my prior experience and the courses I am taking at Empire State College now, I will be well prepared. I consider my strengths to be: possessing excellent organizational skills, being compassionate and a good listener, serving as a team player and a hands-on problem-solver, and having excellent public relations skills and communicating well with parents, staff and children. I understand that taking on the role of Director will take a lot of hard work, sacrifice and determination, but I know I am ready for this challenge

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