BOONE, N.C. — Kaitlyn Helton is an instructional support associate in McDowell County’s Head Start program — and is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in child development-birth through kindergarten (licensure) through Appalachian State University’s App State Online.
“Working while taking classes at App State has made projects and assignments so much easier because I am already in the classroom. I have been able to immediately apply techniques as I learn them,” Helton said.
Helton, a junior from Marion, earned an Associate of Applied Science in early childhood education from McDowell Technical Community College before transferring to App State last fall.
Helton’s current job serves as one of the field experiences required for her major. She said the connections she has made with App State faculty and online students have helped her acclimate and feel like a member of the Mountaineer community.
McDowell County Head Start is part of the federally funded early childhood program designed to prepare children for kindergarten. Helton assists the teacher in her classroom with teaching and caring for the children, as well as documenting when students meet goals such as learning letters of the alphabet, counting and language skills.
Helping a child learn to write his name led to a defining moment for Helton, she said. “The little boy was really struggling, and we kept practicing, day after day. When he finally succeeded, he was so excited. It hit me that I was part of that experience for him, and that’s when I knew I was in the right field,” she shared.
In her App State Online classes, Helton said she collaborates with her fellow students — most of whom are also working in the field. “We have group chats and communicate frequently. Because of the pandemic, the education field is very different right now. We’ve been able to share experiences with one another,” she said.
When the McDowell County Head Start program transitioned to remote teaching in late November 2020, Helton said she was able to apply what she was studying in a digital teaching class. “In the class, we were learning about what children need and what is developmentally appropriate for a 3-year-old’s mind — and I was able to incorporate that into my teaching,” she said.
After graduating from App State, Helton plans to teach kindergarten. “I know my education through Appalachian will help me achieve my goals,” she said.
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About Online and Transfer Services
Online and Transfer Services (OTS) at Appalachian State University supports students through all stages of their transfer journey, including admission counseling and pretransfer advising, credit evaluation, transitional assistance as they begin at App State and through involvement and retention efforts during their App State education. OTS serves undergraduate transfer students studying on the main campus in Boone as well as App State Online students who complete their classes fully online or at an off-site location. The services and resources provided by OTS ensure the university’s transfer student population finds academic and social success at App State. Learn more at https://transfer.appstate.edu.
About the Department of Family and Child Studies
The Department of Family and Child Studies in Appalachian State University's Reich College of Education prepares students to assume professional roles working with children and families in school and non-school settings. The department focuses on the developmental study of families and children in all areas of society and in all cultures. Learn more at https://fcs.appstate.edu.
About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls approximately 2,400 students in its bachelor's, master's, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. With so many teacher education graduates working in the state, there is at least one RCOE graduate teaching in every county in North Carolina. Learn more at https://rcoe.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.