How has your early care and education degree changed or impacted your career?

Katie Hudkins: As a mom, wife, teacher and owner of a child-care center, I wanted to pursue a degree with a focus on current research-based practices. This coursework allowed me to excel as a leader of the teachers who work for me, expand my business, partner with families, and advocate in my community.

Stephanie Dolliver: I find that my elementary-education degree impacts my career in many ways. Not only will I have more teachings opportunities available to me, but with my degree from Naropa, I will have a tool belt of contemplative practices to implement in the classroom to give my students a well-rounded education and help them engage in the world around them. I will have a curriculum that reflects the very diverse and culturally rich country that we live in. I will also be more equipped to effectively teach students who are bilingual. I will be one step closer to getting my master’s degree, which will eventually allow me to run my own school.

What are two things students should look for in an early childhood program?

KH: I would tell potential students to look for a program with relevant courses. This should include current research that promotes a higher quality of early education and is taught by professors who are supportive of your learning, are experts in their field and have experience working with young children.

SD: The first thing they should look for is that the program offers an honest look at what is lacking and failing our teachers and students in today’s society, while also offering tools to make positive and fundamental changes. The second is a program that nurtures, challenges and believes in you. At Naropa, while I am being challenged, I am constantly being offered support for success and positive growth.

What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring teachers?

KH: This career is so very rewarding. None of us are in it to get rich. We have some long exhausting days. But we have the power to make a difference in a child's life every day, and that is the best gift of being an early educator.

SD: I would offer this advice to future teachers: Teaching is one of the most amazing life paths a person can choose if they feel it aligns with their desires. Teaching is not merely a job, it is a super power. It takes a lot of endurance, joy, patience, kindness, time, energy and much more. It doesn’t pay you well, and you will be tired in many ways. There will be days that you feel it isn’t worth it or change is too far away — keep going. There will be days where you witness tiny miracles that will ripple out for lifetimes to come. There will be moments when you look back and see how far your students have come personally, academically and in their communities. Then you will realize it is all worth it.  Also, don’t forget to breathe.