by Kathleen Hedges
SOCORRO, N.M., March 4, 1999 -- Terri Hunter, New Mexico Tech's new Child Care Center director, bubbles over with laughter when she talks about her new job.
"I've been in the position since January 4," she says. "There's never a dull day, and that's how I like it. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to work here. I have a very strong feeling that this is where I'm supposed to be. I was looking for a small community, and I regard this as a permanent commitment."
Hunter trained in child care at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) in Greeley. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education/Early Childhood and a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education. She has done additional graduate course work in Early Childhood Special Education.
She also has a wide variety of experience in child care. She was employed at UNC at their early childhood center (similar to Tech's Child Care Center) while she was a student there, working with children aged six weeks through five years. She has owned a private preschool kindergarten in Greeley, which was accredited by the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC). She has worked as a private nanny, taught at the university level as a part-time instructor at UNC, and worked in the public school system in Colorado.
Hunter came to New Mexico five years ago, "because I didn't want to shovel any more snow," she says. "I had lived everywhere as an Air Force child, and I have always loved New Mexico when I visited it. I've felt drawn here because of the people -- they're very friendly and welcoming."
She started an early childhood program at Tomé Elementary School. She currently lives in Los Lunas, but is looking forward to moving to Socorro after she sells her house in Los Lunas.
Hunter has some exciting plans for New Mexico Tech's Child Care Center. "We're gradually introducing an educational approach called High/Scope into our programming," she says. "High/Scope is an educational model that involves children in direct, hands-on experiences that enrich their intellectual, physical, social, and emotional development. Many places have adopted High/Scope because it works so well. I myself have been using it for 10 years."
Hunter emphasizes that High/Scope doesn't end at the end of the school day. "Many of the activities that High/Scope teachers do in the classroom can also be done at home," she adds. "The child is never in isolation but always is part of the family unit. Through parents's visits to the preschool and teachers's visits to children's homes, parents and teachers learn from one another and become partners in their children's success."
Hunter's other big goal for Tech's Child Care Center is to apply for accreditation from NAEYC, the same organization that accredited her preschool. "It takes about a year to prepare well and feel you're ready to be accredited," she says. "The validation team from NAEYC looks at everything, from our physical plant to our books. They interview parents and observe our staff interacting with students. When you're done with the accreditation process, you know you're providing the best for children and families."
Hunter relates that the Tech Child Care Center has some openings available for children aged two-and-a-half to six. "Our priorities are Tech students, then Tech faculty and staff, then community, but we do have openings for community members. Parents who are interested should call me at 835-5240."
Hunter concludes by adding that she looks forward to moving to Socorro. "I have yet to meet an unfriendly person. This is a community that allows me to do what I want and be where I want to be."