Teaching children “most import profession in world”
Connie Denham’s approach to education, says a graduate of RCC’s Early Childhood program, is clear and straightforward.
“She teaches that you’re there for the children… that it’s all about the children, and about learning what they need,” says Shalayn Allen.
“She has such a passion for Early Childhood Education,” Allen noted. “Without a doubt she truly loves what she does. Connie models how to teach and treat people. She encourages and pushes when she needs to.”
Denham heads RCC’s Early Childhood and Elementary Education Department. She received her doctorate and master’s degree in family studies from the University of Nevada-Reno. She began her post-secondary education with an Associate of Arts at Southwestern College and earned a bachelor’s degree at Florida State University.
In 2000 she joined the RCC faculty. Previously she’d taught at Western Nevada College and Truckee Meadow Community College.
Allen admires the way Denham models how to teach and treat people.
“She walks the talk,” Allen noted. ”Connie expects a lot but she has every right to because she’s responsible for how her graduates teach.”
For her part, Denham is believes in helping youngsters get a positive start in their schooling.
“Teaching children is one of the most important professions in the world,” Denham said. “I really love teaching students how to teach, and I love the diversity of our students.
“Our graduates report back that they learned a lot that comes in very handy in their classrooms and that they are well grounded.
Education improved childcare provider’s expertise
When it comes to teaching children, Shalayn Allen has observed that knowledge leads to expertise.
“The field of childhood education is continuously changing,” she noted. “The more you know, the better you can reach children because they all learn so differently.”
While at Rogue Community College, Allen earned two Associate of Applied Science degrees: Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Early Childhood Education (ECE), and compiled a 3.9 GPA.
Now 34, Allen returned to school in her late 20s following the birth of her daughter. She’d gained experience and skills with children from having worked as a tutor but says she needed “the paper” to back it up.
“Rogue had what I needed in an extensive education program,” she said. “I met Connie Denham and I knew I was where I wanted to be.” Denham, who heads RCC’s Early Childhood programs, was Allen’s first RCC instructor.
“She knows who’s serious about becoming a teacher,” Allen recalled. “Connie is able to focus and meet all the students where they need to be met. She was a mentor and really influenced me.” Denham also helped Allen apply for and receive a John and Betty Gray Scholarship from the RCC Foundation.
“It paid for everything except books,” Allen said. “Without that scholarship I would have been unable to graduate. I’m very grateful to the Grays.”
Allen also took numerous online and weekend classes, appreciating the convenience while caring for a toddler.
Originally from Myrtle Creek, Allen graduated from South Umpqua High School. She attended Kent State University in Ohio and two Oregon community colleges before moving to Grants Pass about 13 years ago.
“Community colleges serve a great need for people to get collegiate-level courses and figure out what to do,” she said. “I flailed at the university figuring out what to do. I spent a lot of money, and I didn’t want to make the same mistake again.”
Budget cuts recently eliminated Allen’s position with the Gilbert Creek Early Childhood Education Center in Grants Pass. Working with 3 to 5-year-olds, some with special needs, was a great job, she said, and making it even better was having part-time RCC education teacher Pam Arbogast as her boss.
“It’s hard work and the teaching never stopped, but I’m a sucker for a challenge. The earlier you can educate a child, the better for everyone.”
While it was a job she deeply loved, she continues to use her teaching skills daily. Currently she is homeschooling her 7-year-old daughter and working as a private tutor helping other parents home school their children. Allen said she’s happy but would jump at chance to return to school part time – money allowing – or teach in the right situation.
“My favorite part of teaching is when the light bulb switches on and they get it,” she said. “It is such a joy to share in being a part of that — it’s an amazing thing. The ideas and skills you teach children are with them the rest of their lives.”
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