Aims commencement speaker puts the pieces together in early childhood education |

Aims commencement speaker puts the pieces together in early childhood education

Allison Dyer Bluemel

The early childhood education programs at Aims Community College and University of Northern Colorado have made Debbie Becker view children through jigsaw puzzles.

Rather than see them as complicated exercises, however, Becker, a Severance resident, has come to explain that each child starts their early education with a box of jigsaw pieces that early teachers must help them assemble.

For students with a rich and supportive family education background, the puzzle may be already assembled. But for others, they show up with their puzzle boxes still in the plastic wrap, she said.

In this case, "teachers must open the box and build the framework, but may still leave holes and gaps" if they do not have proper training, she said.

This results in deficiencies in a student's education that might stay with them for the rest of their education, depriving the world of their full potential, Becker warned.

"That's the difference that a quality early childhood education piece makes," she said.

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With the intent to change education policy through this thinking, Becker stood up as the commencement speaker at Aims' 48th commencement ceremony to speak about changing the world to the school's 336 graduates on Friday night at the Budweiser Event Center in Loveland. She will graduate from UNC as well today with her Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education.

After 20 years working in early childhood care, her time at Aims and UNC were not the beginning of her education and will not be the end. She intends to pursue a doctorate of education with an innovation and education reform emphasis from UNC in the fall.

Becker hopes to impact the education system through policy and advocacy with a particular emphasis on cultural and linguistic diversity, which she said is sorely needed in Colorado's education system where over 250 languages are spoken in the classroom.

While at Aims, Becker received the 2014 and 2015 Distinguished Scholar Award, joined the Beta Kappa Lambda chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, completed the Aims Honors Program and graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, which qualified her to apply as her class' commencement speaker.

"It is very uncommon," Aims Director of Student Life Ron Fay said. "It's quite a feat to be able to dual enroll (at Aims and UNC) all this time, finish and be in grad school by the fall."

Becker's education began before she graduated high school when she started working with young children in care and education centers. From there, she moved towards college, but at the time early childhood education programs were not readily available, she said.

Instead of giving up on her passion for the field, she spent the next two decades working to be the best she could be without the base training.

"I left to go to school because I had reached as far as I could go," she said. "I wanted to make more of an impact on how we do early childhood education."

Becker gravitated to Aims' and UNC's programs due to the unique partnership between the schools' early childhood programs, allowing her to finish her associate's and bachelor's degrees in two years, which included going to school during the summers and many 12-hour school days, she said.

"I think it's really imperative that people understand the teamwork for early education between Aims and UNC," Becker said. "It enabled me to do in two years what most people do in six."

UNC ceremonies moved indoors

The rainy weather forecast for the weekend has forced organizers of the University of Northern Colorado graduation ceremony to move the event inside today.

Because of the weather, the university will hold three ceremonies at Bank of Colorado Arena at Butler-Hancock Athletic Center on the UNC campus, south of the intersection of 14th Avenue and 20th Street.

To accommodate graduates and guests, the three ceremonies, which are scheduled by college, will last about an hour, according to a news release from UNC.

» Natural and Health Sciences: 10 a.m.

» Performing and Visual Arts; Humanities; and Social Sciences: 1 p.m.

» Monfort College of Business; Education and Behavioral Sciences; and University College: 4 p.m.

Doors open an hour before each ceremony. Graduates must attend the ceremony for their college, the release stated.

The decision to move the commencement indoors was made for the safety and comfort of graduates and guests. Steady rain during the week has saturated Nottingham Field, and the possibility of more precipitation with the threat of thunderstorms exists through the weekend, according to the release.

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