Lily Canders: early childhood education student pursues dream of becoming kindergarten teacher

When Maine Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau visited the University of Maine campus last month as a Distinguished Maine Policy Fellow of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, his first stop was the Katherine M. Durst Child Development Learning Center. There, Speaker Fecteau, who has proposed legislation to strengthen and grow Maine’s early childhood workforce, held a roundtable discussion with early childhood education students.

The Durst center, located in Merrill Hall, is a state-licensed and nationally accredited nursery school and preK program open to children and families throughout the community. Established in 1931, it is one of the oldest university-affiliated childcare centers in the United States. Early childhood education students in the College of Education and Human Development are able to observe and gain hands-on experience working with young children at the center.

Lily Canders, a junior from Brewer, Maine, was one of the students who met with Fecteau. Canders says her goal is to become a kindergarten teacher after she graduates in May 2023. She says she appreciated having the Speaker visit and talk about the importance of early childhood education.

What inspired you to pursue the early childhood education program and how has UMaine helped prepare you for a career as an early childhood educator?

I have always loved working with children and knew I would build a career around it. I was inspired to pursue the early childhood education program at UMaine because of their dedication to provide field experience in real classroom settings early on and throughout the program. During my first year, I was able to take a class in the Merrill Hall preschool and now, two years later, I am taking a class that provides me the opportunity to assist the teacher in the school. I am fortunate to have been given so many opportunities to observe classroom settings as well as practice teaching in early childhood education classrooms throughout my education here at UMaine.

What did it mean to have the Speaker come to campus to discuss the importance of early childhood education with you and your classmates?

I was happy to have the Speaker come to campus to discuss the importance of early childhood education. This was a great time to ask questions about early childhood education in our state and have a conversation with somebody who is in a position to make a difference through our legislative process.

What have been some of your favorite classes in the program?

One of my favorite classes so far was EHD 100 which every first-year education student takes. This class is taught by advisors and is so helpful! I really appreciate the advising and faculty support that this major provides for students. EHD 100 helped me make many friends within my major and also helped me build a great relationship with my advisors. I never felt overwhelmed about anything because my advisor for the class explained everything we would need to know about our major. It made me feel really comfortable and super excited about my future in the education field.

Have you worked closely with any professors or mentors during your time at UMaine? If so, who and how have they helped you grow academically or personally?

I have worked closely with Faith Erhardt and Dominick Varney who are two of my academic advisors. I am a student ambassador for the College of Education and Human Development which has provided me with great opportunities to work alongside faculty and other students with similar interests. Faith and Dominick have helped me grow academically by providing me with guidance in my course of study and educating me about the field of teaching. They have also helped me grow personally by always being available to email or chat with me about anything. I have appreciated their constant support and guidance throughout my time at UMaine. I’ve also been fortunate to have (assistant professor of curriculum, assessment and instruction) Tammy Mills and (Katherine M. Durst Child Development Learning Center director and lecturer in early childhood education) Margo Brown as inspiring mentors along the way.

How would you describe the academic atmosphere at UMaine?

The academic atmosphere at UMaine is a welcoming community full of opportunity. There are so many different ways to explore areas of interest. UMaine offers many ways for students to make this community their own while pursuing their goals.

What difference has UMaine made in your life?

UMaine has made a huge difference in my life. I have had experiences that have shaped me as a person and helped me realize my true passions. I am thankful for the connections I have made with faculty, students, and the community during my time at the University.

Describe UMaine in one word.


What are your goals for after graduation and how has UMaine helped you realize them?

After graduation I plan to teach kindergarten. I am unsure where I will be teaching, but I am excited to put my degree to work. UMaine has helped me realize my future goals because I have had the chance to teach and observe different grade levels which helped me find my passion for teaching kindergarten.