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Courtney Thomas

Courtney Thomas tried other careers, but her heart brought her back to teaching kids.

Thomas enjoyed working with children as a Sunday School teacher, but went to cooking school after high school. After a few years in the kitchen, she realized it was time to get back to her first calling.

The 26-year-old Columbus resident came to Columbus State to study Early Childhood Development & Education. An associate degree in Early Childhood qualifies graduates to obtain their Pre-Kindergarten Associate Teaching license.

“I’ve always loved working with kids. I like their innocence, and how they’re always learning new things. I like their curious minds,” Thomas said. “Teaching is what I really wanted to do, so I needed to get back to that.”

Thomas started school with a grant from the TEACH program, which assists students planning to go into teaching and work in a high-need field in a low-income area. She has friends studying Early Childhood at four-year colleges, and she said Columbus State provides an equivalent education at a dramatically lower cost.

“I’m not going to pay a whole lot of money to go to a four-year school when I can go to Columbus State and get the same certification,” Thomas said. “We compare notes and, no lie, the Early Childhood program at Columbus State honestly trains you as well or better than a four-year school.”

Columbus State Early Childhood students do three practicums – one in an infant/toddler room, one in a preschool, and one in a community setting like COSI or BalletMet. Her friends at four-year schools often have only one, and that comes a few years into the program.

“At Columbus State, in the Early Childhood program, you get more exposure to what is really happening in the field,” Thomas said.

Columbus State staffer Kim Rhyan, whose son had Thomas as a teacher, gave Thomas high marks. “She is an amazing woman, teacher and student. She has had a huge impact on my son and his overall development.”

Thomas’ philosophy of teaching is simple:

“Kids learn through play. Not sitting at a desk, not writing something out a hundred times. They learn through play, they learn through their environment, and they learn through exploration.”