TUBA CITY, Ariz. - The Early Childhood Education Program at Tuba City High School is a rigorous program that provides Tuba City High students with the opportunity to prepare early for college, get ready for a full time career and get industry standard certification in the child development profession.
Catrina Herbert, a highly qualified Early Childhood Education (ECE) instructor and her classroom assistant Wenona Adams have developed a state-of-the-art Child Development Occupational lab facility located in Tuba City High School to offer students hands-on, work-based experiences to master program competencies.
Money for the program comes from the Northeast Association for Technological Instruction and Vocational Education (NATIVE) and Joint Technological Education District (JTED).
These state grant monies provide ample access and career opportunities for Tuba City High students to complete a variety of internships in a workplace setting that will lead to industry standards certification and early college preparation through a partnership at Coconino Community College-Flagstaff (CCC).
During the past few years, the Tuba City High occupational lab has developed a strong partnership with Arizona First Things First and Quality First. These two initiatives provide state grants that help expand and improve the Pre-K learning environment that directly benefits Tuba City District's Pre-K and ECE students that are enrolled in the Tuba City High School dual enrollment program.
Tuba City High students in the ECE program are recruited through the Career Explorations classroom to participate in the Child Development Associate Program (CDA). The ECE curriculum is evaluated on an on-going basis to ensure that CCC counselors understand, promote and correctly schedule Tuba City High students into required course sequence to complete the formal ECE program study.
With frequent advising and field visits from the ECE program coordinator and CCC academic advisors, student retention for this dual enrollment program at Tuba City High School is extremely successful.
Maria A. Goatcher, ECE program instructor at Tuba City for the past 24 years, mentors, advises and tutors her ECE students throughout the entire school year to encourage their academic and occupational success to earn a national Child Development Associate license.
An important goal for Goatcher is to provide her Tuba City High students with a smooth transition into post-secondary education and work on stackable credentials to succeed in both college and then onto a full career.
The Tuba City High Child Development Lab has received additional First Things First grant money to expand their program. With these recent additional funds, the Tuba City pre-school staff were able to add a classroom specifically for three-year-olds, which in turn provides more diverse occupational opportunity for the Tuba City High students.
Mrs. Maria Goatcher, TCHS- ECE Instructor,
"I have been teaching this program for the past 24 years," Goatcher said. "I really love the idea that we are giving our Tuba City High ECE students a smart and early start in their college education. ECE students with this special partnership with CCC can complete up to 18 full credit hours through the dual enrollment program. Many of our current teachers in our program at TCUSD were former students in our ECE program here at the high school including Mrs. Catrina Herbert who is now the Head Occupational Lab Pre-K instructor. One of the most important outcomes of this program is that 100 percent of ECE students who are designated as Program of Study Completers go onto post-secondary education. This statistic is verified by data and ADE graduate placement report follow-ups. I am very proud of our students and their enthusiastic interest and hard earned success in this ECE program."
Two of the current Tuba City High ECE students who are both seniors and enrolled in the dual program are looking forward to full-time career work in early childhood education and had a lot of good things to say about their high school ECE program.
Kristina Blackhair, 17, a senior at Tuba City High, is the daughter of Catrina Herbert who is the head current instructor in charge of the Tuba City Pre-School and her father is Christopher Blackhair.
Blackhair was born and raised in Tuba City and has always had an interest in children and their education, inspired by her mother's work.
"I have always liked working with young kids," she said. "I used to help my mom when she had classroom duty and I think she is so patient with her students, encouraging them. I also like that I can get early college credit to start off once I graduate from Tuba City High. I have learned so much about early childhood development at this program. From dietary considerations on how to best feed a growing child for their maximum brain and growth development, to how to structure their work and play time and also how to get them to participate and help each other. It's been really wonderful to have Mrs. Goatcher show us the way to helping really young students thrive."
Fellow Tuba City High ECE student, Paige Tsosie, 17, the daughter of Sonya Acothley and Verle Tsosie, was also born and raised in Tuba City. Tsosie is also interested in an early childhood education career.
"I think eventually I'd like to either work in Flagstaff or here in my hometown of Tuba City with young children," Tsosie said. "I always had an interest in being a teacher and this dual enrollment through CCC has really helped me take my classroom work at Tuba City High more seriously. I see how I can help a more shy child, one with less confidence, really come out and be more confident and try new things with some patient support. I have learned more about gentle understanding and helping these little students try harder."