The Students Behind the ECLC

Photo courtesy of Noah Harrel.

When strolling down Peppertree Lane on campus, you may have noticed the little playground that sits back there among the other classrooms. Although this is sadly not for student use – how sweet would that be during lunch breaks –, it is a place where Point Loma Nazarene faculty are able to drop their kids off for the day while at work. 

The Early Childhood Learning Center is a preschool where toddlers are able to learn and play with other kids whose parents all work for the university. The ECLC is also a place where PLNU students can gain teaching experience. Second-year psychology major and child development minor Mary Barnes currently works at the ECLC.

“I wanted an on campus job and I love working with kids. Plus I think being in an educational setting and getting work experience as a college student is so great,” Barnes said in an email interview.

Barnes is hoping to do play therapy once she graduates, so this job has been giving her hands-on experience correlated to her career. 

“Working at the ECLC is a great start to getting comfortable with talking or playing with kids. It gives me the confidence I desire to work with kids in the future,” said Barnes.

Second-year elementary education major Emily Smith has worked at the ECLC since the spring of 2021. With a love for teaching, she has aspirations of becoming a kindergarten teacher once she graduates. Smith is hoping to work at the ECLC for all four years at PLNU for the extra experience, along with doing other jobs and internships. 

“I feel like I have learned a lot from the teachers that I am working under,” said Smith. “I have gotten to watch both of their teaching styles, which has helped me learn a lot of skills and classroom management tips.”

The ECLC provides extra opportunities for students hoping to work in a similar career field to get in-classroom experience, while also being flexible around their busy schedules.

Emily Burns, a second-year child development major, is also a current employee at the ECLC.

“During my advising meeting before freshman year, I asked about the ECLC and professor Rogers told me what to do to get hired there. This is my third semester working there and I want to work there for all four years,” Burns said in an email interview.

Burns enjoys seeing the kids learn and grow from when they first start coming to the ECLC to when they leave to go to elementary school.

“It is so cool when they come in not being able to write a single letter and they leave being able to write their own name,” said Burns.

With the ECLC being directly on campus, it allows the kids to get exposure to a university and to other people.

“One of my favorite parts about working at the ECLC is getting to see the youngest generation experience their first glimpse of independence,” said Barnes.

Of course like any other job there are challenges, and Barnes explained how COVID-19 has made some aspects of the job difficult. She said that wearing a mask while at work makes it difficult to relate to the kids.

“The most challenging part for me at the moment is trying to express my facial expressions to the kids while wearing a mask,” said Barnes.

Even with these challenges, the ECLC has provided experience and knowledge when it comes to working with kids. So the next time you take a walk down Peppertree Lane, give a wave hi to our baby sea lions!

By: Bree Brandon