Kaci Trett had always aspired to be a teacher. She has now made this dream a reality by completing her associate degree in early childhood education at Aims Community College and getting a job as a preschool director before graduating.
Kaci Trett Attains Her Dream Job Through Aims
Her passion for education was fostered in her younger years by compelling role models — her kindergarten teachers, Ms. Martin and Ms. Nadeau. “They had a big impact on my life,” Kaci said. “I talked to them throughout my whole schooling. On my graduation day, I went back to see them.”
Kaci’s role as a mom to a three-year-old and a five-year-old cemented her path toward early childhood education. “I love teaching my daughters everything. I wanted to have an impact on somebody, be a good role model, someone they can look up to,” she said. Kaci wants to help more children by shaping young minds in the classroom.
“We're their mentors. We're making sure that they hit all their milestones. We’re helping them learn and grow and develop.”
Training for A Teaching Career at Aims
Kaci began her college journey at Aims in 2021, 13 years after graduating high school. At that time, she stayed busy. Her husband was in the Air Force, they traveled the world and she found work on the base. The couple spent seven years in Japan, where they had their first child. The growing family moved to Colorado and her husband is in the reserves. Soon after, Kaci finally found her way to Aims, guided by the ability to use educational benefits for spouses of veterans.
“I always wanted to be an early education teacher, but I never knew where to start, to be honest,” she said. Aims was there to provide direction to Kaci. After enrolling, she connected with Early Childhood Education department chair Christine Wiedeman, who wanted to get to know her and help her navigate the program. Kaci recalls that Christine gave her some books for her daughters.
“Christine is amazing,” Kaci said, “she’s very kind and walked me through everything. I had a lot of questions about the program, and she walked me through a lot.” Even though she isn’t currently enrolled in her classes, Wiedeman still checks in with Kaci to ask about her progress and offers to provide her with some pointers.
Wiedeman isn’t the only Aims faculty member that Kaci has been inspired by. Linda Carlson and Laura Killen-Wing are professors in the Early Childhood Education department and profoundly impacted Kaci. “They're not only teachers but also great mentors,” she said.
While Kaci attributes her success to her instructors, she also appreciates the flexibility of her courses. “Being a stay-at-home mom, I was worried that I would never have time to go to college, but thankfully, Aims offered most of my classes online, which was amazing.”
At first, she had family around to support her, but sadly, a couple of weeks into her first semester, Kaci’s dad passed away, which led to her mom moving back to Florida. “I was so grateful to have Zoom classes offered because I had no one to watch my girls,” she said.
She would then schedule the kids’ naptime and bedtimes around her classes to help her focus but still be there for them. Sometimes, her girls were in the background of these online classes, and Kaci said, “that was okay.”
Another thing Kaci appreciated was the use of open educational resources instead of traditional textbooks. Early Childhood Education faculty at Aims are on the leading edge, curating free learning materials in their classrooms. Killen-Wing is a big advocate of this approach, noting, “It allows students to dig deeper into the areas that are important to them and they can zone in on what is most relevant.”
Kaci is also in tune with that approach. “I can't sit there and read a textbook and not fall asleep,” she admitted. “Having the videos they've shared or the articles have been amazing and they are things that we're actually going to use.”
She credits her professional growth to her time at Aims. Kaci is working on her capstone project to pull together everything she learned in the early childhood education program. This is something new that the program is doing in a student’s final semester. “We are going to present in front of an audience to show people that we can do this. We're not just babysitters.”
Getting a Job Before Graduation
Kaci will receive her associate degree in early childhood education in December. She is graduating with honors and received an award for her academic achievements. Kaci is already a licensed Childcare Director through the State of Colorado due to her attainment of certificates at Aims in early childhood education entry, early childhood teacher, and early childhood director.
While attending Aims, she got her first teaching experience by getting a job through a classmate, Gina Fay. Gina provided Kaci with an opportunity to work for two years at her at-home preschool to gain experience. Kaci said the job “was amazing” and wouldn’t have happened without attending classes at Aims. “I'm just so thankful that I did this because not only has it given me the degree, but it also gave me the job I wanted,” she said.
In fall 2023, she was offered a position as assistant director at the newly opened Little Bloomers Learning Center in Johnstown, which focuses on infant and toddler education. Kaci got hired through her work in the Aims Early Childhood Practicum class, which provides students with real-world experience. It also connected Kaci with staff members at Little Bloomers. “That's how I got my job today,” she said, “just being in a practicum class and getting to know the director, the teachers there.”
“My goal was to graduate and get a job and I'm almost graduating and got the job.”
Kaci acknowledges that early childhood education isn’t always a high-paying job, but it’s worth it if you have a passion for it. She said, “It's not a big money maker, so just make sure you love what you're doing.” Kaci has found success in teaching due to her dedication and passion for guiding young minds.
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