By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (August 5, 2016) – Haley Wilkerson always knew she wanted to be an educator. Later this month, she will begin a new career, teaching future teachers at Ranger College Erath County.
Born in Clyde, Wilkerson grew up in the tight-knit community, raised by a family of teachers. While her peers finished high school uncertain what their future would bring, Wilkerson knew where she was going and would waste no time getting there.
“My mom taught for 27 years,” Wilkerson said. “My grandmother was a teacher for more than 30 years, and my older sister is also a former educator.”
Wilkerson began her post-secondary education at community college before transferring to McMurray University in Abilene. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, earning the credentials needed to teach children in kindergarten through sixth grade. While in college, she tutored younger students while working for the Alliance Afterschool Care Program.
Following graduation, she returned to her hometown, where she taught fifth grade writing. Wilkerson felt a sense of accomplishment and enjoyed her job.
She got married to Scott Wilkerson. The had a son Grant, now 16 months old. But she knew her journey wasn’t complete.
“I again felt a calling, this time to higher education,” she said. “I wanted to empower adults.”
Wilkerson went on to obtain a master of arts degree in curriculum and instruction from Angelo State. Marking another milestone, she began searching for employment opportunities in a community college setting. She had her heart set on working in a small town, at small campus that would allow her to commute to and from her native Clyde.
That search led her to Ranger College Erath County. Heather Haile, newly appointed director of childcare programs, is working around the clock to launch a new program at the two-year college in Stephenville.
The two women met in the new child development center as finishing touches are being made to the facility and forged an instant bond, built on their shared desire to educate and empower.
Wilkerson quickly signed as the program’s first instructor. She will teach three courses in child development beginning with the inaugural semester later this month. The courses will share her expertise in educating young children and child wellness.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to get in, empower students and see them succeed,” Wilkerson said. “I want them to know they can do anything they set their minds to, and I’m excited to work alongside Heather, her passion and her experience. I want to instill our shared dedication and drive in our students.”
While many students will complete their experience with an associate’s degree, prepared for careers in daycare centers or as home-based providers, Wilkerson said the program can also help pave the way to dreams much like her own.
“Child development classes will also carry over to a university setting, which is huge for students who are thinking about a career in education or other fields serving young children,” she said.
Wilkerson also said the learning lab, a 75-child facility open to private-pay enrollment, is a huge asset, offering a broad range of experiences she didn’t get until serving as a student teacher.
“Ranger students will get hands-on experience early on,” she said. “They will get to learn in an environment with children of different ages, personalities and needs rather than getting started with a text-book only, one-size-fits-all approach. I am excited my students will have the benefit of real-world experience and seeing how educators handle individual circumstances.”
The living laboratory will also give Wilkerson the ability observe how Ranger students put their classroom knowledge to work and address issues and opportunities as they arise.
“When you have a room full of kids, it’s a different ballgame,” she said. “It’s much different than having children of your own or being the older sibling.”