Eastern New Mexico University’s Child Development Center has a new director. Casey Fall-Guerra is also an instructor for early childhood education in the College of Education and Technology. She started her position as the new CDC director in January.
What is your background?
I grew up in northern Indiana and went to Indiana University. My bachelor’s degree was in early childhood education, so I had 2 different teaching licenses. I was able to teach infant and toddlers all the way up through third grade. I was also a licensed reading specialist. I started my career by teaching in an infant-toddler program that supported and empowered families in poverty. I was also a family advocate and home visitor for Early Head Start. I have also taught in various preschool programs. I went back to school and earned my master’s degree from IU Bloomington. It focused on Curriculum & Instruction in Early Childhood and I completed a lot of credits in research methods, new literacies; all focusing around learning through play.
What are your plans for the center, and are there any changes you intend to make?
I want to increase enrollment for children. We have a new 2-year-old classroom, a 3-year-old room, and a 4-year-old room. I want to get those filled. I also want to make the center more known among the campus; I feel as though sometimes we are forgotten about over here and that’s unfortunate because we are always doing some really cool things. Students can enroll their children and they can bring them here while they’re in class and doing homework. I also want more campus involvement. We have an observational room that can be used for research. I want more research in the future and more involvement with different degree programs. Currently we have the early childhood education students coming over for labs, so they are getting that practice in the classroom. They get the theory in the class with me, but they come over here and get the practice with the children. We have the physical education students do physical activities with the children, we have the speech department coming over and doing evaluations for the children, and we have the culinary arts students who help plan and provide our meals. It would be great if we could get some art and music involvement and any other degree program that could be beneficial to the university students and the CDC children.
What do you love about your job?
I love being a director and an instructor because it is the best of both worlds. I can support teacher candidates in the classroom by teaching theory, and at the CDC by guiding them through real practice. I also love supporting teachers who are already in practice. I feel like a lot of teachers feel pressured that they have to have the answer for everything in terms of teaching and working with children. This is not true at all—if we had all the answers, our jobs would be easy. I like to be able to support them as growing teachers. I also love being around the children. I am a teacher at heart, and nothing is better than stopping in the classrooms while children are working on a project. The CDC is probably the happiest place on campus, and I am grateful to be a part of it.
What are some facts about the center that the public should know?
The CDC is nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which means that we have the highest quality Pre-K program possible. We are also licensed by the state of New Mexico and accept Children Youth, and Families Department tuition vouchers for those who can’t afford to send their child to school. My teachers create lesson plans and activities based on child development and their interests, while also focusing on the New Mexico Early Learning Standards to get them ready for kindergarten. We give enrollment priority to university faculty, students, and staff, but we also open enrollment to the community.