Maureen Cruz has been entrenched in Early Childhood Education since she was a child. Her mother, self-described as her most influential teacher, was an early childhood educator, and as a youngster, Maureen would often visit her mom at work. As a teenager, Maureen worked in every childcare facility where her mom was employed.
Growing up, Maureen’s father was the manager of a toy department, so her family always had the latest in popular toys. A lover of stuffed animals and playing with her dolls by local streams, “I was a very shy child,” Maureen admitted, “and I had trouble making friends in school.”
Luckily, Maureen had a fourth-grade teacher to help her find her way.
The teacher that helped form Maureen’s compassionate career
“She was just wonderful for me,” Maureen detailed. “Without my knowing it, this teacher took me under her wing and helped me socially, which I needed at the time. She was always available, for any reason. She encouraged my interests, and I remember a lot of hands-on activities,” Maureen fondly recalled, “I will always remember her.”
Not long after, Maureen stared to excel in class, but for her, “at the time, it was just a fun year at school.”
Walking in her mother’s professional footsteps, Maureen went on to work as a preschool teacher in a private, traditional preschool for over 18 years.
The fork in the road that led to learning later in life
The facility where she was employed eventually was forced to close its doors when all-day preschool programs were implemented in the town’s public school system.
“I did not finish my degree when I was younger, so I knew I had to get my degree to get another job in the field,” Maureen explained. “I had a ton of experience, but employers wanted the degree to go along with the expertise.”
Goodwin’s got the goods
So when it was time for Maureen to look for an institution to help her form an accredited foundation for her future, Maureen appreciated that Goodwin University’s academics seemed catered to students who were already working full-time.
Returning to school after 30 years, Maureen was relieved to find that applying to Goodwin was a smooth progression. With an abundance of transfer credits carried over from a former institution, “an admissions officer walked me through the whole process and never left me on my own to figure things out,” Maureen recollected, “the communication was superb.”
Similar to her admissions officer, Maureen thought the interactions with her professors were also positive ones. “If you are having any problems or issues, talk to your professors,” Maureen encouraged existing Goodwin students. “They are there to help you succeed in any way they can, and it is not all talk when they say that.”
Maureen mentioned Michele Dent, Goodwin’s Early Childhood Education Program Director, when pointing out particular professors that went above and beyond. “She was easy to work with,” Maureen complimented. “She would take the time in class if someone didn’t understand something, and she tried hard to make the classes interesting and engaging.”
Maureen took mostly on-campus, evening courses and found “the flexibility of classes worked well with [her] work schedule.” Earning her associates in Early Childhood Education, Maureen enjoyed all of her core classes, as they “enhanced her experience” and validated “the reasons and theories why [she] teaches the way [she] does.” Even with decades of experience in the field, Maureen managed to “learn new techniques to use in [her] classroom.”
“Attending Goodwin allowed me to finish my education that I started 35 years ago,” Maureen stated. “I went back to school at 50—years-of-age and felt very welcomed there. I was supported in every way possible, and it reaffirmed my passion for early childhood teaching.”
Going beyond the books
“Children are sponges at a young age,” Maureen reinforced. “They learn quickly and have a natural love of learning. Beyond academics, we don’t just teach; we help children to grow and develop. We help them with their gross and fine motor development,” and, just like Maureen’s fourth-grade teacher did for her growing up, “we help them with their social and emotional development, too.”
One of Maureen’s favorite children’s books is Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
As a mother, Maureen’s wish for her daughter, Cassandra, catered towards the career-focused institution of Goodwin University. “I had an incredibly positive experience at Goodwin,” Maureen stated gratefully, “so much, that I suggested my daughter go there for her bachelor’s degree in Child Study.”
Like mother, like daughter- a lineage of incredible educators
Making Early Childhood Education a Cruz family career, Cassandra Cruz is now a current student attending Goodwin University.
Just like her mom, Cassandra’s experience with the Early Childhood Education profession began at an early age. In elementary school, when Cassandra had the day off from school, she would work with her mom and lend a helping hand with the children in the classroom. Later in life, Cassandra found herself showing up at the childcare center because she genuinely enjoyed the atmosphere.
One day, when Cassandra was around 22-years-old, her mother, Maureen, had a student teaching engagement to attend. It was then that the childcare director of her mother’s place of employment asked Cassandra if she would like to step into the classroom as an impromptu preschool teacher assistant teacher to help her instruct the children. From that day on, Cassandra was hooked.
Mother knows best
After uncovering that traditional colleges were not the right fit for her future, Cassandra took her mother’s advice and applied to Goodwin.
Parallel to her mother’s positive experience, Cassandra was approved an abundance of transfer credits to keep her on her track to her early childhood education teaching career. “Goodwin taught me that it’s ok to take school slowly and that it’s ok if you don’t finish school in four years,” she disclosed.
Similar to her Goodwin graduated mother, Cassandra took many of her classes on-campus in the evening and articulated excitement over the Child Study program’s flexibility.
Among all courses, Cassandra appreciated her Math and Science for Young Children classes the most. “It taught me so many ways to bring nature into the classroom,” she shared.
In pursuit of her Connecticut Directors Credential, Cassandra makes it her mission to follow her favorite motto ‘it takes a big heart to help shape little minds” on the route to her professional career path.
“I teach children how to do the first of things,” she stated proudly. I get the best feeling when I see a child’s eyes light up because they just learned something new or realized ‘wow, I can do this!’”
Setting students up for success
“Early Childhood Education teachers are the ones who get children initially interested in school, and particular subjects,” Cassandra affirmed. “We teach them the basic skills needed for school, and we give students the care and love that they may or may not be receiving at home. Our students depend on us to teach them and care about them.”
“Goodwin has shown me that the best way to help children is to love what you do,” Cassandra noted, and her mother couldn’t agree more.
When asked for tips to help those entering the early childhood education profession, Maureen advised those on their own Goodwin academic journey to “be present while in school, participate in class,” and, above all, “be passionate about what you do.”
“Education, formal or informal, is the key to the world,” Maureen expressed with enthusiasm, “learning allows us to go anywhere we wish in our lives.”
To continue their passion for making a positive impact on the lives of little learners, Maureen and her daughter, Cassandra, are doing all they can during the Coronavirus pandemic. The dynamic duo sends their students work packets each week, keeping in touch with parents via email. To keep young minds continually learning, Maureen, with her daughter as the cameraman, facilitates a daily 30-minute group circle time on social media. Cassandra also reads stories to her students in the afternoon. In a valiant attempt to keep early minds active through virtual learning, “I keep them engaged with poems, songs, motor skill activities, and mix it up with academic learning activities too,” Maureen communicated.
When it comes to e-learning and educating her students through social distancing, “it has shown me that I love what I do,” Cassandra stated with sentiment, “I truly miss them and cannot wait to get back to see my students!”
Are you interested in learning more about a career in Early Childhood Education? Check out our associate and bachelor’s degree programs!
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.