Embracing Challenges and Change

Nicole Traore

nicole traoreGoing back to school later in life is always challenging. Nicole Traore's experience certainly reflected this fact.

"It was hard for me to go to school," she said. "I'm a parent of three very active boys. I work full-time."

But completing her bachelor's degree had always been major life goal, so when Nicole found the online Early Childhood & Family Studies program — now known as the Early Care & Education program — she decided to take the plunge. She's glad she did.

"When I saw this program, it was absolutely perfect," said Nicole, who graduated in 2016. "I could make it work around my schedule and my kids' schedules."

Here she shares about the knowledge she gained from the degree program and how earning a degree will influence her career.

Can you tell us a bit about your current job?

I work for Washington's Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, which is similar to Head Start. I do family support. I have worked in the field of early childhood education for probably 20 years. I've been a teacher in the past and this is the other side, working with the families.

Will completing your bachelor's degree offer you opportunities for career growth?

When you get your degree, it changes the way you think about things. I'm in family support now and I absolutely love my job, but I can see other avenues. I feel like I have more to offer, more to give by completing my degree. I would love to go back into the classroom to be a lead teacher.

The whole field of early childhood education is changing and growing. This degree provides me more opportunities at a higher level than where I am now.

What was the best thing about the program for you?

What I learned. I've always thought that I really knew this field, but I can definitely use what I learned in the classroom. It provided practical information and new techniques that are cutting edge; it's supported by the best research, the best practices for preschool children and their families.

Part of the program involves taking and watching videos of yourself teaching. What were those like?

I learned so much from doing them. You get to see the way the kids see you — you learn exactly what you're doing right or what you need to improve on. What I learned about how to engage students in the classroom was really important.

Did you get good feedback on the videos?

You're in a group with two other students, known as the CORP (Community of Reflective Practices) group. When they reviewed my videos, they gave me feedback. At the end of the quarter, we submitted what we felt were our best videos to the instructors.

What was the online experience like for you?

What's different with an online classroom compared to a regular classroom is those lectures are online the entire quarter. Whenever I felt like it, I could go back to a lecture and review it.

Was the technology used in the program difficult to figure out?

The technology is very simple. They give you a list of what you need to get, and it's really easy to figure out how to use it. If you had a problem, the technology department was right there — there's a phone number that you can call.

I never had problems with the learning platform. It was always there, always on, always available. It was really dependable.

Was the cohort aspect of the program important to you?

It's important because you're building relationships and the trust is there. When someone was commenting on my video, I knew where they were coming from because I have worked with that classmate before. You start to really understand your classmates and their views about the field.

Can you tell us about what the instructors brought to the program?

They're amazing. If there was anything that I didn't understand or if there was an issue, they were there for you. They partnered with you. They understood that most of us were working full time. One time I posted something on a Sunday night and both instructors responded right away.

What would you say to someone who's thinking about taking this program?

Being a parent and working full time, I wondered how I could possibly go back to school. Even though I really wanted to, it was very scary. My philosophy was, I will never know if I don't try it out. I would say try it — it's not as hard as it might appear.