Caitlin Woodroof hopes to be a teacher for Grades 3 to 5 and is also interested in teaching kids with special needs.

With her wide range of interests, she switched from studying English and psychology at Wilfrid Laurier to the first bachelor of child development in Ontario at Seneca College.

“It provides such a broad foundation I think,” says Woodroof, who started in September. “Even though it’s child development and it’s about early childhood education, you can still take it any direction you want to.”

This is exactly why Mary Fisher, the chair at the school of early childhood at Seneca College, created the degree, which launched in September 2008.

“It’s basically an interdisciplinary approach to early learning and care,” says Fisher, who has been working on the program for about six years.

“For too long one person is taking care of the child’s health and one person teaching.”

In the four-year program, students learn how to teach and create programs for children. They also learn about brain development, psychological attachment disorder and the effects of trauma on learning.

The program combines practical with theory, offering three field placements and one internship. There is also an emphasis on ensuring students are taught leadership skills.

When students graduate, Fisher says they can move into various family related jobs, such as in any family service programs, young early school centres, children’s treatment centres and elementary schools.

“If they work in a childcare centre and the child’s speech is not developing, they will work with the family and break the news to them. Then, they will facilitate the speech and language people,” says Fisher.

“They will advocate and be the person who can work with the other professionals to make sure this family’s needs are met.”

The program is currently only offered at the college’s King campus, but Fisher says she expects they’ll expand it into the Newnham campus.

As for Woodroof, she’s enjoying the change from university to college.

“Kind of a mix in the class, few right from high school, but I say the majority is continuing education (students),” says Woodroof. “It’s a nice mix and it’s a small class.”