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Baptiste advocacy shaped the NMSU Early Childhood Education program

Date: 06/01/2012

Nancy Baptiste is not only an advocate, but a pioneer. Her work in the field of early childhood development has had a major impact on New Mexico State University, as well as on the state.

Nancy Baptiste sits on a chair in front of a shelf of children's books and toys.
Nancy Baptiste is not only an advocate, but a pioneer. Her work in the field of Early Childhood Development has had a major impact on New Mexico State University, as well on the state. Baptiste plans to retire in July.

981 she has taught early childhood courses at the associate, bachelor, master and doctoral levels.

She also is one of the founding members of NMSU's Myrna's Children's Village and currently serves as faculty director of Myrna's Children's Village.

"There are high quality, accessible and affordable programs for young children," Baptiste said. "One of the most exciting things for me is to look out my window and see a family walking their child to their classroom and not have to get into the car or pay for gas, but just walk over from student housing across the street. I think that is such a service to our students."

Baptiste's dream of having an area dedicated to children of students, faculty and staff, came true six years ago, when the abandoned Vista Del Monte apartments were turned into classrooms.

"We had several early childhood programs in the basement of O'Donnell Hall at that time and we thought, 'wouldn't it be wonderful if we could move them to a village where we'll have multiple programs that would serve student families and possibly faculty and staff?'" she recalled. "So we were able to talk to other people in the university, who were instrumental in helping us. We formed a committee and before we knew it we were receiving funding from the state and we were able to renovate. From then on, we were able to receive more state funding for programs."

The Children's Village now has two public school classrooms, an early head start classroom and a head start classroom, and three preschool programs comprising the NMSU School for Young Children, along with two playgrounds, serving a total of 172 children.

The village also serves as a resource for future teachers since it is a laboratory school for students in the early childhood program area.

"I was always interested in children. In how they think, how they grow, how they develop and learn," she said. "I was very fortunate as an undergraduate to have a laboratory school on my campus. Many of my assignments were in the laboratory school, and I was very interested in observing the children, and learning more about what was appropriate pre-school education."

For 30 years, Baptiste has taught and worked to create and promote professional development for early childhood teachers and teacher assistants.

She is currently the co-principal investigator for the Dona Ana County Head Start. Because of this work, she has received two additional important federal grants for which she has been recognized as one of NMSU's Millionaire Researchers, bringing $1 million in external funding to the university every year.

"The efforts for two of those grants were to help teachers attain college degrees and improve their professional practice," she said.

Her focus in the community also has extended to La Vida Institute, which is a state training and technical assistance center for childcare providers and family childcare providers.

"This is an off campus site that has a staff of 11 people, all of whom have early childhood backgrounds and reach out to the community. The focus of my work has really been on community outreach to develop early childhood professionals," she said.

Even though Baptiste is planning to retire in July, she is not stopping. She said she will continue to teach courses in her area, and has several book contracts, to which she wants to dedicate time.

"I feel very comfortable that we have new people who are highly qualified to work in the village and will take on the leadership responsibilities," she said. "It is with mixed feelings that I do this, but I feel it's time to plan my time a little differently."

Written by Angela Simental

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