Arica Ludwig: Early Childhood Ed
FVTC’s Early Childhood Education program helped Arica Ludwig find her career path—and it’s helping her make a difference in children’s lives.
Arica Ludwig has always enjoyed taking care of children. She watched over her younger cousins and helped out at her mom’s in-home child care center while growing up. As a high school senior, she discovered she liked teaching during a year-long cooperative education class with second graders.
Now, thanks to her associate degree from Fox Valley Technical College in Early Childhood Education, Ludwig has transformed her passion into a career, working as a co-teacher at 21 for Tots Child Care Center in Appleton.
It took Ludwig some work to get to this point, however. “I’ve always wanted to teach young children, but I wasn’t sure about the best way to pursue the goal,” she says. Ludwig initially enrolled in a large, four-year university after high school. “As a freshman, I was overwhelmed by the size of the school. My classes were large, and it was difficult to build personal relationships.”
Small Classes, Big Benefits
Ludwig began exploring other options. She attended FVTC’s Discovery Days and toured the Early Childhood Education department. During the event, she learned about on-campus activities as well. “I really liked the Early Childhood Education program and the friendly environment at Fox Valley Tech,” Ludwig says. “The small class sizes really sold me! From the first day of class, I felt welcome and comfortable getting to know my classmates and instructors.”
According to Amy Werba, FVTC’s Early Childhood Education department chair and instructor, the associate degree program includes a mix of early childhood and general education courses. It focuses on curriculum methods, child development, and practicums that provide hands-on experience in varied care settings for children of all abilities. Students teach in a licensed child care center, a kindergarten, a preschool, and the FVTC Parent/Child Center.
Ludwig says her training provided her with opportunities to teach, interact with children and parents, and work in different classrooms. “During every experience, I used what I was learning in my classes,” she notes. “My courses on curriculum planning and art, music, and language for young children were particularly helpful.”
She also had great experiences outside the classroom. She was a member of the women’s competitive basketball and volleyball teams, served as a student ambassador for the Early Childhood Education program (on Discovery Days and Campus Visit Days), and was a new student orientation leader.
Ready for the Real World
Ludwig is now putting her FVTC training to work at 21 for Tots Child Care Center. The center, which is sponsored by Century 21 Real Estate, is licensed for 40 children ages six weeks to 12 years. “I care for and teach two- and three-year olds, write parent letters and lesson plans, and build relationships with parents,” Ludwig says. “It’s extremely helpful to draw from the lesson plans I created in college and to use the resources and teaching methods from my classes. I was very well prepared.”
This fall, Ludwig enrolled at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. As a student in an accelerated program, she attends class at night while working full-time. Almost all of her FVTC credits transferred through a transfer agreement with the university.
According to Werba, Ludwig exemplifies many Early Childhood Education students. “While Arica participated in our traditional-format degree program, we provide an accelerated program option for people already working in early childhood education,” notes Werba.
Werba adds that the program classes meet Wisconsin state licensing requirements, which offers an advantage for graduates. And what is the job outlook like these days for graduates? “Our students have many employment options, including working in Head Start programs, preschools, child care centers, 4-K classrooms, and more,” says Werba. “They also work as nannies, paraprofessionals in school districts, and child care center owners.”
She expects to see many new students due to Wisconsin’s recently passed YoungStar regulations that increase the education requirements for child care center staff members. “There’s never been a better time to return to campus and continue your education,” says Werba.
Centered Around Learning
Experience is the best form of learning at FVTC’s Parent/Child Center
You probably won’t see the youngest attendees of FVTC sitting next to you in class. That’s because they are children at the college’s Parent/Child Center, an accredited preschool licensed to care for kids that range in age from six weeks to 11 years old.
Not only is the center a convenient, high-quality child care option for faculty, students, and community members, it also plays an important training role in the Early Childhood Education program. All Early Childhood Education students have at least one practicum at the Parent/Child Center and are mentored by the center’s experienced instructors.
The center’s close collaboration with the Early Childhood Education department benefits staff, children, and parents. Center staff members can pursue continuing education opportunities on campus and employ the latest teaching methods.
Sally Beining, director of 21 for Tots Child Care Center in Appleton, worked at the FVTC Parent/Child Center for 13 years before assuming her current role. “FVTC graduates are well prepared due to their many hands-on learning experiences,” she says. “As employees, they fit in well and easily transition to our center.”