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Childcare educator brings extensive experience to the classroom

Campus News | Monday, January 29, 2024

Photo of C. McKayeEarly in her professional career, while volunteering in her church’s nursery, Charvella L. McKaye knew she wanted to pursue a career involving children. At the time, she was working as a health care aide. McKaye didn’t realize then the winding path that decision would take her on in the years ahead.

Growing up in Ypsilanti, Michigan, McKaye’s mother was a nurse. (Ypsilanti – pronounced epp UL’ ant ee – is a small town between Detroit and Ann Arbor.) After high school, McKaye enrolled at Washtenaw Community College and took health care-related courses to follow in her mother’s footsteps. While volunteering in the nursery at Christian Life Center on Sundays, it struck her: Health care was not her passion; childcare was.

McKaye was so exceptional that the church hired her part-time to work with infants and toddlers in the childcare program. A promotion to lead preschool teacher for three- to five-year-olds quickly followed. She transferred to the nearby Wayne County Community College District and earned an associate degree in Childcare Training in 1993.

At that point, she learned of a one-year certificate program for Praise and Worship Leaders being offered at the World Harvest Church in Canal Winchester, Ohio. She packed up and moved with her seven-year-old son to the far east side of Columbus. The plan was to return to Michigan eventually.

As a single parent, McKaye was able to enroll her son at World Harvest’s private school. She worked a full-time fast-food restaurant job to make ends meet. She soon discovered a childcare center nearby and was hired full-time while still attending World Harvest’s certificate program. A colleague at the childcare center told her about Columbus State.

A trek downtown to check out the pre-K licensure program allowed McKaye to meet Virginia (Ginny) Johnson Carey, who became her mentor. Carey was the program coordinator for the Early Childhood Development program. “Jenny told me that, due to my previous degree in Michigan, I would only need 10 courses to get a Columbus State degree in Early Childhood Development.” McKaye enrolled and had her Early Childhood Development associate degree in hand by 2000.

That new degree led to a full-time job at Head Start in Columbus. Shortly after, she was hired to work part-time in Columbus State’s Early Childhood Lab. That’s when she began working on a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Sciences at The Ohio State University, graduating in 2004.

Her position in Columbus State’s Lab opened doors. The first was a taste of teaching when she led a four-week summer semester course in Professionalism in Early Childhood. She also became a faculty coach, which included observing students at practicum sites.

Working and studying for a new degree had gone hand-in-hand during McKaye’s early career, and it wasn’t about to end. She enrolled at National Louis University in Chicago for a primarily online program in Early Childhood Administration. She received a master’s degree in 2007.

During that period, Columbus State opened a new childcare center in the Center for Workforce Development. Her experience and degrees made her the ideal hire for the supervisor position at the child-friendly facility.

When the childcare center closed in 2013, McKaye returned to Head Start. That didn’t last long. Six months later, Columbus State came calling again. She was hired for a temporary full-time faculty position. As that position concluded, she became an annually contracted faculty (ACF) member in 2015. A tenure track instructor position followed. Upon earning tenure in 2022, she became an associate professor of Early Childhood Development and Education.

And she feels right at home. “The faculty here have a passion for teaching, and they have a direct impact on students. We get students just out of high school – and now in high school – who have a thirst for knowledge,” said McKaye. “You have people in mid-career come back to retool. I hear students say, ‘I haven’t been to school in 30 years!’ and you see them succeed.” which is so rewarding.

McKaye shares her passion and knowledge whenever possible. She was a point person for Columbus State, one of eight colleges in College Successes for Single Mothers. It was a three-year project from 2020-22. Funding was provided by an Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) grant.

“The project’s scope was to look at institutions across the country and see how they currently supported single mothers and to identify areas of improvement,” said McKaye. “Columbus State took it one step further. We not only looked at single mothers but also the student-parent population as a whole. We identified goals and action steps.” McKaye represented the college during a panel discussion at the Achieving the Dream Conference in 2022.

That topic was also the focus of McKaye’s dissertation for her doctorate, which she began working on in 2019. The dissertation was titled “Supporting Single Parent Students in Higher Education: Exploring Factors That Contribute to Success.” National Louis University awarded her Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership in April 2023.

With her final degree goal achieved, McKaye says she’s not going anywhere right now. “I have a passion for working with the early childhood students here at Columbus State and having an impact in preparing for the important work they will do with young children and their families in our community!”  




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