2015 Early Childhood grad working as program specialist at Child Care Aware
Ashley Marek, 30, graduated in 2015 with her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Early Childhood & Youth Development from Dakota County Technical College. Today, Ashley works as a program specialist for Eager-to-Learn at Child Care Aware of Minnesota in St. Paul.
While a student at DCTC, Ashley served as co-president of the Early Childhood Club for one semester. Before launching her career in early childhood education, she worked as a customer service associate/front-end supervisor/pharmacy technician at Sam’s Club. She was also an esthetician for a short time.
“I started in early childhood as an aid in a small private center,” Ashley said. “I was hired at a Bright Horizons location as a resource teacher, and I completed my first practicum/student teaching in the two-year-old room.”
“Children need a patient, kindhearted, open-minded, willing-to-get-messy-and-be-silly, loving and empathetic educator. They need an environment and curriculum that supports them learning through their senses and invites their curiosity to dive deeper to build upon their knowledge and understanding.”
DCTC Graduate, Class of 2015
Child Care Aware of Minnesota
Ashley was later promoted to lead infant teacher by the school’s director. She then moved on to teaching 3 to 3.5 year olds for almost a year.
“I was then hired on by a brand-new center, Hypointe Childcare, as a young toddler teacher,” she added. “I began creating and delivering team-building activities, assisted in designing and developing a Reggio-style playground, assisted in daily scheduling, some room arrangements, a staff board and covering teachers to support planning time.”
While working full-time at Hypointe, Ashley subcontracted with Child Care Aware of Minnesota as an advisor, planner and coordinator for CDA learning communities. She started in her role as a full-time program specialist at Child Care Aware in March of this year. Her key tasks include planning and scheduling child development associate credentials as well as coordinating and communicating with instructors. Ashley also develops classes for CDA programs on our Eager-to-Learn website.
“I’m looking forward to taking on more responsibility and managing larger projects,” she said. “I want to continue my education and earn my bachelor’s degree. That would mean creating my own individualized program, one with more early childhood courses and more management, project-based work.”
More about Ashley…
Originally from Bloomington, Minnesota, Ashley graduated from Rosemount High School, Class of 2007. She comes from a split family and has two older brothers on her mother’s side, and one younger brother on her father’s side. Her nephew, Austin Geelan, graduated in 2017 from the DCTC Welding Technology program.
“I have a very supportive husband, Steve,” Ashley said. “He graduated from DCTC in 2017 with a diploma from the HVAC & Refrigeration Technology program and works for Bloomington Heating & Air. We have an inquisitive 9-year-old son named Raymond.”
Ashley added that the family has a black cat they adopted a little over two years ago. “His name is Remmi and he is pretty feisty.”
When she’s not working and spending time with her family, Ashley loves baking pies, cookies and cakes.
“I learned Reiki last year and practice occasionally,” she said. “I am in my second year of learning to garden. I also enjoy experimenting with different types of a crafts. Right now, I am teaching myself to quilt. I have made candles, bath salts, dreamcatchers—I just like to try new things.”
Ashley and her family reside in Elko/New Market, Minnesota.
“What I remember about Ashley is that she always had a smile and was eager to learn! She was intentional about doing her best and seeking input on how to be better. But she could laugh at herself, too!
“Ashley was curious about different options available to her in the field and took advantage of opportunities. She’s an asset in the early childhood field and has the dispositions needed to be successful.”
Early Childhood & Youth Development Faculty
Dakota County Technical College
Ashley Marek • Q & A
Why did you choose DCTC?
I had heard good things about the instructors in other programs, the campus was close to home, lower cost—and, honestly, I knew I would be accepted with a low high school GPA.
What is one thing every early childhood teacher should know?
Teaching is more than just play and it’s a workout! Children need and deserve a fully educated caregiver that understands each age and stage of their development. They need a nurturer and often times an advocate for what is best for them.
What is your teaching philosophy?
Children need a patient, kindhearted, open-minded, willing-to-get-messy-and-be-silly, loving and empathetic educator. They need an environment and curriculum that supports them learning through their senses and invites their curiosity to dive deeper to build upon their knowledge and understanding.
What did you like best about teaching children?
The joy in their eyes for the simplest things. Their curiosity to explore, building or creating new ways for their adventure to reach new levels of learning. Building relationships with the parents and families as their children progress to different milestones and/or new found learning.
Three words that describe you as a childcare professional:
INTENTIONAL. EMPATHETIC. ENCOURAGING.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job as a program specialist?
Coordinating 20 instructors for approximately 45 different courses for a four-month time frame. Navigating who can teach which course, when and creating a balance of opportunity between them all…but I enjoy it!
What advice would you give students thinking about making early childhood education their career path?
You’re going to have good days and tough days in any career you choose. Take this field with a full heart, open mind to other cultures and beliefs of raising children, empathize with parents and their children, and know that you can never truly stop learning in this field!
Teaching is not just about what you want, it’s about what these children deserve and that’s the best we have to offer. We can only be our best when we fully understand how children learn, reasons behind the behaviors, and how to teach through their curiosity.
Why is education so important for young children?
The first five years are the prime time when you are shaping their understanding of emotions, sympathy, inventiveness, exploration, curiosity. The numbers and letters will come through it all but this is the time to focus on social and emotional skills. We are building the base of their skills that will ensure their readiness and desire to learn more in the future.
One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:
More about Early Childhood & Youth Development at DCTC…
This program prepares students for employment in a variety of early childhood and youth settings. Students learn about child development, guidance, professional relationships, nutrition, health & safety, cultural sensitivity, and techniques for promoting learning in young children.
This program is available in the classroom and most courses are also available online. Courses meet Minnesota Department of Human Services educational requirements for assistant teacher and teachers in a child care setting.
This program is designed to prepare students for transfer to an early childhood teacher licensure program. Students learn about child development, guidance, professional relationships, nutrition, health & safety, cultural sensitivity, and techniques for promoting learning in young children.
This program is available in the classroom and most courses are also available online. Courses meet Minnesota Department of Human Services educational requirements for teachers and assistant teachers in a child care setting.
This program delivers a broad scope of knowledge and skills necessary for working with, or on behalf of, children and families in a variety of non-teaching career fields such as human service agencies and services, home visiting, coaching, early childhood management, and child life.
Students learn about child development, guidance, professional relationships, nutrition, health & safety, cultural sensitivity, and techniques for supporting children and families in a variety of settings, including therapeutic sites. This program is available in the classroom and most courses are also available online.
“Ashley was my student at DCTC. After she graduated and was working as a teacher at Hypointe Childcare, she supervised our students at her location during their teaching practicums. She went on to do subcontract work for Child Care Aware of Minnesota, where I am the workforce development director. We knew right away Ashley was a good fit for our organization.
“What I love about Ashley is how she sits in the front row at meetings and training sessions and always asks what more we can do. She has the drive and passion to succeed in our field.
“Our Early Childhood & Youth Development program at DCTC offers students a practice-based curriculum where they receive the knowledge and real-life experience to become early childhood educators.”
Early Childhood & Youth Development Faculty, Dakota County Technical College
Workforce Development Director, Child Care Aware of Minnesota
Ashley Marek • 12 Answers
- Favorite sport or physical activity: Yoga
- Place you would most like to visit: Nepal
- The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Scuba-diving in Antigua
- Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Buy a house with more land 2) Pay off any/all debts 3) Save the rest for when needed
- Favorite TV show you’re watching now: Outlander
- Best movie you’ve seen lately: Ip Man
- One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Writing a series of children’s books
- Your national bird if you were your own country: Barred owl: To inspire wise decisions
- Dream occupation: I have no idea, but I feel pretty close
- Person you would most like to meet: A genie
- Skill you would most like to learn and master: The art of communication
- Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Our environment: taking care of this planet so the children have a future.
Learn more about the Early Childhood & Youth Development program at DCTC by contacting: