Early Childhood Education Program Earns Accreditation | Thomas Nelson Community College

Early Childhood Education Program Earns Accreditation

April 29, 2021
Image for Early Childhood Education Program Earns Accreditation

The Early Childhood Education Program is housed in Rooms 729 and 730 in the Hampton III Building.

Trying to set your program apart in a competitive field isn’t easy. It’s often time-consuming, tedious and expensive. When things come to fruition, however, it makes all the hard work well worth it.

Just ask Thomas Nelson professor Teresa Frazier, whose Early Childhood Education program recently received word it has been nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

“NAEYC is the guru for early childhood (education),” Frazier said. “It will give us a little bit of prestige. It shows that our students are quality students, beyond the norm.”

Frazier, who has been at the College since 1992 and has taught just about every class the program has to offer, began working on the accreditation process in August 2018. She first had to see if it was feasible to take on such an endeavor. Next, she had to come up with assessments in a variety of classes and find ways to measure them, which began about a year later. Then she did research on the faculty, staff, students, graduates and more to show NAEYC that the program has the support of the entire College community.

“They want to know how easy it is for students to enroll, how easy is it for students to go through the process, graduate; advising, the library,” she said. “It’s very intense.”

There was an application form, due April 1, 2020, that was approximately 150 pages, along with an application fee, which she was able to pay for with grant money. In summer 2020, officials from NAEYC contacted her to set up a site visit in the fall. That turned out to be virtual, but wasn’t any easier. They still wanted to interview stakeholders, organizations in the community, businesses that support the program, adjunct and students, just about everybody involved. At the end of March of this year, she was notified of the good news. She still has some paperwork to fill out to make it official, but that’s a mere formality.

“They say it’s conditional, but they still allow you to say you have accreditation listed on their website, so I’m happy,” she said.

Paul Long, Dean of the Public Safety, Allied Health and Human Services academic division, praised the accreditation.

“This is a testament to the hard work, dedication and collaboration of Teresa and her team, as well as the consistent support provided by yourself and the College’s leadership,” he said in an email to Dr. Susan English, Vice President of Academic Affairs, and the College community.

The NAEYC review committee said the program’s faculty, and how they treat their students, stood out. Here are some comments from the report:

  • The faculty and students have all agreed that one of the strengths of the program is the variety of adjunct faculty and the experiences they bring to the program.
  • The program has a diverse faculty population that reflects the program’s student body.
  • Adjunct faculty also felt that they were well-supported by the full-time faculty member. They work collaboratively and are a close-knit community.
  • Community members also shared that the faculty are well-qualified and prepare the students well.
  • During the interviews with faculty and students, the peer review team recognized that the full-time and adjunct faculty are sensitive to the students’ needs as they offer day, evening, weekend, hybrid and online courses; assist students in obtaining employment; guide students to four-year transfer options.

Frazier said all those are nice, but it’s the last item that means the most to her and her team.

“One of the things that stood out to me, and I think we were all proud about it, was that we really thought about the students and everything else that goes on in their lives,” she said. “Our students are not like four-year students. They’re working full time. They have children. They have other things going on.”

She’s also proud because the accreditation puts Thomas Nelson in select company. There are just 187 two-year and four-year institutions in 40 states with accreditation, including only three other schools in the state – Northern Virginia CC, Tidewater CC and Danville CC.

“It is kind of prestigious,” Frazier said. “It gives us a little bit of an edge. Students have a better chance of getting hired. They know you’ve met the standards. They know that you know this.”

But there’s another great benefit to the association with NAEYC, Frazier said.

“They’re always improving themselves, which means then we’re automatically improving ourselves as well.”

Frazier’s work isn’t done, as she will have to file annual reports and go through the accreditation process again every five years. She says it’s worth it because it makes the College stand out.

“We have something else where we can say we’re national accredited,” Frazier said. “There aren’t that many colleges in Virginia that can say that.”