Melissa Underwood has been teaching at the Child Development Center at West Hills College in Lemoore, California for the past two years. “I love it so much that the pay really isn’t important,” said Underwood. “I know that sounds really cheesy and cliché, but I love the atmosphere and the experience.” This recent Brandman University graduate has not only inspired her own professional future but has also made a lasting impact on her daughter's educational dreams.
Monday through Friday, the Riverdale native arrives at school at 7:00am and faces the challenges of educating a classroom full of 25 preschoolers, all under the age of 6. When school finally lets out for the day around 3:00pm, Underwood straps her 5-year old son into his car seat and heads 20 minutes home where the duties of being a full-time mother to a soon-to-be third grader, Avery, and a soon-to-be kindergartener, Jax, begin. While Underwood uses the knowledge and skills acquired from earning her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education in the classroom, it is the example she sets each night at home that is providing the real early childhood education.
“My 8-year old [Avery] already knows what she wants to study when she gets to college,” said Underwood. “We drove past Cal Poly the other day on the way to the coast, and she noticed the college. When we got home she Googled the university and she now has all the classes she wants to take for her program [journalism or paralegal] posted on the wall of her bedroom.” Unheard of for someone who is just 8 years old. But each night Avery would witness her mother studying her Brandman University course work after the kids went to bed. “Avery would get out of her bed, crawl into my bed late at night and say ‘let’s talk about my path too.'" Wise beyond her years, Avery and her mother would often study together and work on PowerPoint presentations. The foundation for lifelong learning has been set.
Avery may still have ten years to go before starting college, but mom is about to see the direct effect receiving her degree will have. “I was offered a promotion at work a couple of months ago,” said Underwood. “I was waiting on my degree to actually get it and I’ll be bumped up to Master Teacher.”
On June 13th at the Visalia Convention Center, Underwood stood beside nearly 100 other graduates from Brandman's Visalia, Hanford and NAS Lemoore campuses to receive her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education. We congratulate Underwood who will soon take over as acting Site Supervisor at the West Hills College Development Center. A pay increase is likely to accompany the promotion.