Early Childhood Studies Alumni

Joe Lofton

B.A., Early Childhood Studies, Spring 2021
Career: Kindergarten Teacher

What inspired me to major in ECS my sophomore year was my first teaching job at the Children's Preschool on campus. I remember walking into the school being greeted by children asking if I was going to be their new teacher. From that moment, I knew I had a gift and a love for teaching children and wanted to further my education and professional development towards a career in education.

Right now I am continuing to further my education at Alder Graduate School of Education where I am pursuing to obtain both my multiple-subject teaching credential and my Masters of Teaching in Education. With this intensive one-year program, I have had the opportunity to be in a classroom with my mentor teacher. I am a current Kindergarten teacher at Aspire Richmond Technology Academy which is a TK-5 public charter school located back home in West Contra Costa Unified School District.

The ECS major prepared me for my career in education and my graduate program by giving me the foundation in being able to build what I did not know at the time was my own teaching style, voice, and pedagogy. Learning about the various child development theories and theorists gave me the context and the lenses in which I look to aim in supporting not just my scholars, but their families, and my community as a whole. What stood out to me most during my ECS program were the most encouraging, supportive, and nurturing professors I have had the opportunities to learn from. My professors that I have had the privilege of collaborating with have all given me a part of their teaching identity that has helped contribute to the way I approach teaching with my students. My professors, dean, and leaders within our ECS program were there to support me, even when I felt at times I may have not been supported. Thank you all for always having my back.

What I find most exciting about my career to become a teacher, especially out in Richmond, is being able to go back home and teach the kids that grew up in the same neighborhood as I did. I did not have my first Black teacher until I went to SSU and I believe that every child deserves to have a Black teacher at some point in their lives. I believe it is truly a privilege to be able to do what you love -- this understanding allows me to not take my role as an educator for granted. I've come to understand that without SSU and our ECS program, I would have never been able to find my love in teaching and being able to cultivate the minds of our next generation of intellects. "Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything" - Pedro Arrupe

Sayira Diaz

B.A., Early Childhood Studies, Spring 2021
Career: Dual Language Elementary Teacher

My name is Sayira Rodriguez de Diaz, I have 3 children, and I am currently a graduate student with an ECS BA degree taking my Multiple Subject Credentials and BILA courses at Sonoma State University. My ambition is to become an elementary bilingual instructor, and my goal as a teacher is to further my students' education and assist them to become more knowledgeable.

My whole life, helping others understand difficult subjects has shaped me. When I lived in Nicaragua, my parents would ask me to check if my siblings finished with their homework every night until I’d made sure they were done. In elementary school, I would curl up in my bed, warm lamplight making my room golden, and read my favorite books to my brothers and sisters bringing to life classics like From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Later, I found audio storytelling, laughing hysterically at Stories from a Song in the kitchen while helping grandma with her cooking and connecting the story to a real-life event or a famous movie with my brothers and sisters. By high school, I was creating my own array of stories through satirical school activities and participating in outreaching activities such as Spanish or basic Arithmetic Tutoring at school.

Later, after coming to the United States, I became a sister-volunteer at an elementary school for my little brother; the school is in Tulare California, and I helped in his classroom for a whole year. Having that experience was absolutely my call to pursue a career as an elementary school teacher.

I began attending the School of Education after my first semester at Sonoma State University. The Early Childhood Studies Department at Sonoma State University not only provided excellent departmental leadership but also provided an extraordinarily strong experiential basis for me to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher! My colleagues were also a joy to work with, and I made several lifetime friendships because of them. I evolved as a person as well, and all my professors have remained favorites of mine!

After graduating I started taking my Multi-Subject Credential courses together with Bilingual Added Authorization courses. Currently, I am taking courses in the Flex program and am ready to participate in my student/teaching assignments next semester at a Dual Language school in Santa Rosa. Teaching is a rewarding experience. You'll get to see your students develop abilities, flourish in extracurricular activities, from significant friendships, and learn new things about themselves. I realize I'm not a teacher-teacher yet, but that's how I feel whenever I assist someone in feeling comfortable and satisfied with themselves after understanding and completing any assignment.

Grace Birkenes

B.A., Early Childhood Studies, Spring 2021
Career: Preschool Teacher 

For a long time, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life and I spent a lot of time trying to figure that out. I grew up as the youngest in my family and never did any babysitting or childcare so my exposure to children was limited. However, in high school, I started teaching dance to middle school kids and fell in love with teaching. I then discovered that children are the absolute best and I wanted to spend every day with them and teaching them so I decided to get my BA in Early Childhood Studies with an emphasis in education. 

I am currently working as a preschool teacher with a local nonprofit. In my work, I recognize the immense knowledge I gained from the professors in the ECS department almost every day. I am inspired by the children and the fellow educators I spend my days with and I am very thankful for my time at Sonoma State for helping me get to where I am supposed to be.

Abbey Rodgers

B.A., Early Childhood Studies, Fall 2020
Career: Resource Development Coordinator 

I was inspired to major in ECS because all my life I have worked with children. I am the second eldest in my family of 9 and the eldest sister. Three of my siblings have special needs as well, so growing up I helped quite a bit with caring for my younger siblings. I had the intention of using this degree as a stepping stone and working on getting my multiple subject teaching credential and teaching at the K-6 level.

However, like with most people’s lives, the COVID-19 Pandemic changed my plans. I was working in a school and a Special Education Paraeducator and began to feel burnt out. I decided I wanted to support children in a new way which led me to my current job at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sonoma-Marin! I currently am the Resource Development Coordinator for BGCSM and work with a wonderful team in our Resource Development and Marketing Department. Our main focus in Resource Development is eliminating any obstacles and making sure that our staff working in youth impact have all the resources to continue to change the lives of the youth in our community. In Resource Development we do this by ensuring our staff have the funding and supplies necessary for running their programs and clubs. We make this possible by doing outreach in the community, annual appeals, and campaigns as well as large fundraising events.

While my job doesn’t focus on early childhood development, the papers, projects, and various assignments I completed at SSU helped teach me great skills I use in my job now. I am so grateful for staff like Ayumi Nagase who pushed my writing skills, and Kathleen Kelley who taught me how your mental health is something important to take care of and not neglect. I also want to thank Vivian Xiang, whose compassion for her work and her students has shown me that no matter what field you go into, you should love what you do and give it your all. I look back on my college career as a time of major growth and am very grateful for the support I received in this Department. Even for students who are not sure as to what career they want to pursue, the ECS department does an amazing job at helping teach you great skills you can utilize in various fields. Thank you ECS Department!

Cassidy Ritter

B.A., Early Childhood Studies, Spring 2018
Career: School Psychologist

When I first enrolled in the Early Childhood Studies program, I was unsure of which career I wanted to pursue. At the time, all I knew was that I wanted to work with children in a role that could truly make a difference. During my time at Sonoma State University, I had some amazing and passionate professors who introduced me to so many careers in the field of early childhood that I hadn't previously heard of, and I eventually landed on school psychology. I am currently in my third and final year of my graduate training program at the University of Washington, and I plan to work as a school psychologist upon completion of my degree.

My goal is to be a school psychologist in early childhood education since that is really where my passion for this work lies. Being a key advocate in those early stages of development and education can be very impactful, and I truly value the relationships that are built with families throughout that process. My time at Sonoma State University shaped the career path I am on now and provided a strong community of educators to help guide my academic and professional growth.