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GSU's Child Development Center welcomes new director, accreditation
GSU Child Development Center lead teacher Janet Scott, far left, plays peek-a-boo with Elle Hook, 1, while lab student Carrie Miller lends a hand in the infant room.
    January 3, 2008 was a big day for Georgia Southern University's Child Development Center. Not only did the center receive word from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) that its program accreditation had been continued through 2012, but it was also the first day on the job for its first 12-month, full-time director — dedicated solely to running the center.
New director
    Cindy Edenfield is the new CDC director and is an Eagle through and through. She's a GSU graduate, having received her Bachelor, Master's and Ed.S. degrees from its College of Education. To say she has fond memories of the place would be putting it mildly.
    "I walked these halls as a student and many of my mentors were here," said Edenfield. "I still can't believe I'm in this position. The families and the welcoming that I received — it's beyond my imagining."
    Alice Hall, interim director for the CDC from '06 to '07 and associate professor of child and family development, was one of the members of the search committee. After reorganizing the center, redirecting its focus and working on its reaccreditation, she said the committee was looking for someone who had a commitment to both child development and the teaching aspect of the CDC.
    "We wanted someone who had the same commitment to the lab school that we had," said Hall. "We really wanted someone who bled blue. Someone who was committed to the undergraduate program, who wanted to be a part of Georgia Southern and carry it further by remembering those historical roots."
    Edenfield said she always wanted to work with young children — those under the age of six. Her vast amounts of experience speaks to that desire.
    She ran her own childcare facility for three years and taught kindergarten for four years. She then taught at Swainsboro Technical College for over 14 years, teaching classes as well as acting as program coordinator and director of the lab school used for student training. Her most recent position was as instructor at Ogeechee Technical College, where she also acted as its program coordinator.
    When she heard of the search to fill the CDC director position, she acted immediately to pursue her dream job.
    "When I went to my president at Ogeechee Tech (and asked) to be released from my contract, I was so fearful," said Edenfield. "I told her this was my dream job and did she think she would even consider letting me go so I could fulfill that dream. And she said, 'Are you kidding? After you put it like that? Of course!'"
    Edenfield said she's excited about the opportunity to continue the excellence of the program and was impressed by the support the program receives from the dean (Fredrick Whitt — Health & Human Services) and the department chair (Henry Eisenhart — Hospitality, Tourism, and Family & Consumer Services).
    "Even during my interview process, that was one thing that really impressed me — the vision that they both had for this program," said Edenfield. "It really made me want to come here, besides the fact that this was so familiar to me and was like coming home."
    “This is one of the best Christmas presents I ever received,” said Hall, interim director of the center during the process of preparing for accreditation. “The CDC staff worked diligently during the self-study and the year-long program improvement process, and I am very proud of their hard work.”
    This NAEYC accreditation comes under a new and improved accreditation system implemented in 2006. Under the new system, the accreditation team reviewed 417 criteria, compared to 102 criteria in the former system. Also, this was the first time the preschool and infant-toddler program were accredited as one unit.
    The GSU preschool has been in existence since the '50s and in its current building since the '70s. Most in the "old school" know the place as the Family Life Center.
    "One of the interesting things is we're now serving children whose parents went here," said Hall.
    When the infant/toddler program — started in 2002 — merged with the FLC in 2006, under Hall's leadership, the name was changed to the Child Development Center. At the same time, she expanded hours from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and expanded the program to 46 weeks. Previously the preschool program was only open 30 weeks and half-days in the summer and the infant/toddler program wasn't open in the summer at all.
    Hall stressed how diligently the staff worked on the accreditation as well as the reorganization.
    "Hats off to the staff because change is hard for anybody," said Hall. "They had to grasp the reorganization, a new director and work towards accreditation. They worked a lot of extra hours on classroom portfolios  to secure our success."
    Hall couldn't say enough about the support from the dean and the department chair. She was especially thankful for all the work from GSU's Physical Plant.
    "One of the things we had to do for accreditation was a major renovation of the playground," said Hall. "They spread the rubber mulch, fixed some drainage problems, put rubber tips on the fence,  painted handrails and painted chairs so they all matched. We are very lucky [to have that support]."
    Currently, the program serves 68 children ranging in age from six weeks to five years from university and community families. While the classrooms are staffed with experienced teachers educated in the fields of child development and/or early childhood education, GSU lab students also spend time in the classrooms, performing a variety of functions depending upon their level of expertise.
    Hall said this dual mission — providing high-quality childcare for the community and serving as an educational component of the university — impacts children statewide.
    "We graduate anywhere from 60 and 90 students per year (in Child and Family Development)," said Hall. "Now when our students graduate, they've had 96+ hours of hands-on training working with children in the classroom. That allows them to impact the state, spreading quality childcare through the state of Georgia."

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