Back to the Future

Member of first Berkley preschool class returns as early childhood educator

Mary Warm has returned to her preschool roots.

A member of the very first preschool class at UMKC’s School of Education’s Edgar L. and Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center 23 years ago, Warm began working as a child development assistant at her alma mater this summer.

Warm currently is studying early childhood education at Penn Valley Community College and just completed her Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential™. The CDA is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education (ECE) and is a key stepping stone on the path of career advancement in ECE.

Warm chose to return to Berkley for several reasons.

“First, I wanted to work for an accredited program because I knew it would be high quality,” she said.  “An accredited preschool has to do everything to high standards and that provides safety to me as an employee and comfort to families.”

Warm, who happens to have Down syndrome, also wanted an employer who would be fair to her as a person with a disability.  “I knew UMKC would be a fair employer and I like how important they are to the community,” she explained.

And third, “This is the place where I learned to walk, talk and read,” Warm relates.  “This is the place where I started to understand that I could have a family outside of my own family. It’s all good.”

The Berkley staff is enjoying hearing Warm’s stories about her years as a student there. In fact, Warm’s name is engraved on the glass block wall by the staff lounge outside the kitchen area as one of Berkley’s founding pre-schoolers, starting as a toddler when Berkley opened its doors in June of 1993.

“It is such an honor that Mary’s experience with us as a child inspired her to apply for a part-time positon, and that she chose early childhood education as her life work,” said Polly Prendergast, director of Berkley.

Warm gravitated to the field of early childhood education because she is committed to teaching kids about the world they will live in.  “I love kids and I feel that I’m good with them,” she explains.

“That narrowed my (career) choices a lot. From there it was easy. Early childhood gave me an early start. I was the only kid in my Sunday School toddler class that knew where the cotton ball nose went on the paper plate. I was one of a few early readers in kindergarten. I always felt smart in school because I was ahead of everyone else.  Eventually, kids who have an easier time learning caught up but the stories a child tells themselves at the age of 2 to 5 are the stories that stick.”

Warm’s memories of her early years at Berkley are many.

“My favorite memory,” she said “is probably the adorable thing that a student said to me today.  Seriously, every day new memories happen and I love each of them. Can you believe Vanessa Gibbs, the cook and best drummer ever, showed the children yesterday an African drum song? She did the same thing for me when I was three years old!”

The Edgar L. and Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center has built a community that continuously learns and grows from the knowledge of its children, families, faculty and teachers, taking great pride in cultivating a program that is rooted in developmentally appropriate practice and current research. Berkley holds accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)—the nation’s leading organization of early childhood professionals—which lets families in the community know that children in Berkley’s high-quality program have teachers who create engaging classrooms, enhance relationships with their parents and families, and develop rich experiences for their students. As a resource to others, Berkley enrolls children of UMKC employees, students, and the community.

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