Amber Badger remembers clearly when as a youngster her home daycare provider saw in her the potential to be a teacher in the future. Amber, one of the oldest children at the daycare would assist the caregiver with setting up and creating activities. When she became a pre-teen the provider encouraged and helped her sign up for first aid and child supervision classes. Badger, now a single mother, has persevered, overcome obstacles, and stayed focused on the goal of having a career in early childhood. Her roots go as far back as her own daycare experience and her education and experiences at Asnuntuck Community College (ACC) brought her closer to her current position as an Assistant Teacher at Pioneer Valley Montessori School (PVMS).

She began her post-secondary educational experience enrolled in the Saturday program at Bay Path University.  Majoring in Psychology, with a focus of child psychology she successfully completed her general education studies courses, her electives, and a couple of courses in her major.

“While the courses got more intense so did my son’s needs, and money was depleting in my bank account,” explained Badger “During this time, I worked three jobs- as a bakeshop clerk at Stop and Shop, cook at Chili’s, and a package store clerk … along with Saturday classes at Bay Path. She acknowledges, “Something had to give. I needed to choose my son and working over my education. I stopped going to classes and applied to work at my son’s daycare- so I could make money, spend time with my son, and be on his schedule. This is when my career in ECE was solidified,” said Badger.

She began at Asnuntuck in 2012, due in part to her employment at the Enfield Child Development Center. A condition of the center’s accreditation with National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) was that the center’s employees were required to continue their education through workshops and college courses.

She was familiar with the college. Her father, a recipient of the college’s prestigious Nelson Bordeau award and a member of the college’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa had graduated from there. Her niece and sister were also graduates of ACC.

“I started with Intro to early Childhood Education (ECE) and Health Safety and Nutrition. These subjects pulled me in as I was familiar with child psychology from my previous experience majoring in Psychology at Bay Path University along with my work experience in the Child Care field, working at local daycares and being a mother to a young child at the time. I fell in love with the field at this point!”

She added, “While attending classes at Asnuntuck, Carol LaLiberte was the first professor I had that saw my true potential and really helped me not only with goal making but she provided me with the support and courage to fulfill those goals.  Through her own workload and conducting classes and students and curriculum and accreditation, she saw me! She woke me up to things I didn’t realize about myself. She witnessed me assisting students in the class, taking time outside of class to help them study, or sign up for classes. Carol acknowledged my nurturing actions and invited me to be a mentor for fellow ECE students. I was delighted!”

Badger, was inducted into ACC’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter and graduated from ACC in 2015, earning an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education, in addition to a certificate in Early Childhood Education. She was also awarded The Dr. Elaine Stewart McKirdy award from ACC’s Early Childhood Department.

The graduate spoke about the college’s influence in her success. “Asnuntuck Community College helped me climb over the many walls that were hindering me from completing my goals. The school is very convenient to get to, which helped me keep my full-time job, be a mom, and attend classes.” She gave praise to Asnuntuck’s Early Childhood Program Coordinator Carol LaLiberte. “Throughout the years Carol checks in with me- even though she is so very busy, she still checks in. She is always open to help me find employment, answer any ECE questions I have; she is a wonderful resource for anything and everything ECE.”

Badger is now employed at PVMS a school that she visited with LaLiberte while studying at ACC. “I have finally found my path in Montessori Education with her guidance.  I love what I do. I finally wake up every day and can’t wait to get to work. I can’t thank Carol enough for guiding me on this path and being an amazing support.” She continues to study and work toward her bachelor’s degree and has taken the lead for renewing her school’s NAEYC accreditation. She is continuing her studies at the University of Hartford and is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Education, with an American Montessori International certificate. She has plans to graduate by the summer of 2020.

The alumna says, “Going to Asnuntuck really empowered me. I finally felt focused. I finally completed a degree. I found a supportive “family” that truly cared about my wellbeing and success. Asnuntuck completely changed my life for the better.”

Late start classes are available at Asnuntuck. Visit www.asnuntuck.edu/latestart/ for more information. Infant/Toddler Growth and Development, a course developed for those already providing care for infants and toddlers in daycare or home settings, or plan to work with this age in the future, will begin on March 11th