Connie Denham (left), who heads the RCC Early Childhood Education program, was a role model for new kindergarten teacher Pam Ward.
Connie Denham, Ed.D., is head of RCC’s Early Childhood and Elementary Education Department. She received her doctorate and master’s degrees 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 Denham joined the RCC faculty. Previously she’d taught at Western Nevada College and Truckee Meadow Community College.
“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.”
“The RCC program sets such a solid foundation.”
— Pam Ward, kindergarten teacher
At those moments when her kindergarten classroom feels like it’s teetering on the brink of chaos, Pam Ward draws on the training she received at Rogue Community College.
“There are times in my teaching when I flash on what I learned at RCC and think, ‘Ah-ha, so that’s what they meant. Now I know what to do!’ It’s like little voices in my head,” Ward said.
Especially useful are the principles of developmentally age-appropriate practices, which are stressed in the program. Now in her second year at Redwood Elementary in Grants Pass, Ward says knowing what works best for children at certain ages is critical.
“The RCC program sets such a solid foundation,” she explained. “I know who I am as a teacher in any situation — with the kiddos or the bureaucracy.” Ward took many of her classes from Connie Denham, head of RCC’s Early Childhood and Elementary Education program, and views Denham as a mentor and ongoing resource when questions arise.
“Connie Denham practices what she preaches,” Ward said. “She’s a good role model and a great teacher. Connie taught us the same way we should treat our own students — with caring and respect.” Ward, who also has worked with children as an educational assistant, in camps, and in after-school programs before — loves her job.
“The best part is watching kids grow,” she says. “For many of them, kindergarten is their first school experience, and they walk out the door ready and able to write their own name. It’s fun and also a big responsibility to have 30 little lives in front of me,” she added. “You expect one thing and the kids give you 20 variables. That’s when you think, ‘I’m glad I went to school to learn this.’”
A 2000 graduate of Eagle Point High School, Ward attended several universities in Portland to study theater management but realized her heart wasn’t in the business side of the profession.
“When I changed to education, I immediately felt at home and comfortable,” she recalled. An RCC Foundation scholarship from the John and Betty Gray Early Childhood Project Fund helped finance her education.
“Without scholarships and loans, college would not have been possible,” she said. Ward also worked, and her online classes gave her the ability to balance her studies with job obligations. Ward earned an associate’s degree at RCC, and then transferred to Southern Oregon University where she earned a master’s in education. She was hired before graduation.
“RCC’s program is great,” Ward said. “You come out feeling good about who you are as a teacher and knowing what you want, no matter what challenges you’re faced with.”
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