Maddi Manelski '21 has found a calling in early childhood education, and it brought her back to Santa Clara’s campus!
After graduating, Psychology and Child Studies major Maddi Manelski ‘21 began the SCU Master’s in Counseling program and worked for a mental health clinic, but after a year realized that her heart belonged in a classroom full of children. So, she decided to pivot her career path and is currently an Assistant Teacher in the 4-5 year old room at Kids on Campus, Santa Clara’s campus childcare center and pre-school. And, simultaneously, she is completing a Master’s degree in Elementary Education through Western Governors University. In the future, Maddi hopes to combine her passions for mental health and working with children by becoming an Early Elementary School teacher. She strongly believes that it is never too early to teach children about the importance of taking care of themselves -- both physically and mentally.
In her own words:
"Thinking of my psychology degree, a few classes come to mind. First, Adolescent Psychology with Dr. Tim Urdan taught me what an influential period adolescence is - I had previously thought of childhood as the most formative time in our lives, yet adolescence is the time where identities are explored and tried on. If this process is not supported, identity suffers, meaning the whole person suffers. Second, Dr. Tom Plante’s Psychology of Religion and Spirituality helped me see the positive and influential role that having faith, hope, and a sense of spirituality has on an individual - regardless of how that individual chooses to define those terms. Both of these classes have influenced my current job as an early childhood educator - children are constantly growing, changing, and exploring who they are. When teachers give them the tools, love, and support they need to grow into their best possible selves - whatever that means to them - they not only learn better, but approach each day with happiness and excitement.
Volunteering at preschool and elementary schools through ELSJ and the Internship in Child Studies class also opened my eyes to the challenges and joys that school staff and faculty face every day. Although some days I would go home exhausted, these experiences reinforced that my future career would include working with children. I learned that I love to watch and support a child’s development process in a more intensive way than weekly therapy sessions allow for. Classroom teachers get to know their students on a deeper level, and as a result can learn how to best support the whole child. It was through volunteer experiences like the Internship Class and ELSJ that I first got a taste of this, and ultimately what helped influence my decision to switch Masters programs.
My advice to current students is to try everything! Volunteering is a great way to support your local community, and spend time in various fields if you’re unsure about what path you would like to take. Talk to people as well - family, friends, career counselors, professors, co-workers… people who know you best and who can offer you advice and wisdom about what influenced them to take the path that they did. For those who want to work in early childhood education - volunteer! I would emphasize doing so with various age groups, from infancy through elementary school, or older. I worked as a student assistant at Kids on Campus while completing my undergraduate degree, and worked primarily with toddler age. I thought for sure that if I were to teach, that would be my age group. After taking on a role as a Substitute teacher, I was surprised by how much I loved working with different age groups. Don’t be afraid to try new things - if you like it, great, and if you don’t, you learned something about yourself!” "