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Richard Belmonte '07 - Education
"The value of my Curry College education really started to sink in when I began supervising teachers at my job," says Richard (Richie) Belmonte, preschool program coordinator at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) Child Care Center in Lebanon, NH.
"I saw how limited their time in field placements and practice teaching had been and realized that Curry does the opposite - it provides many hours of practice in the classroom through multiple extensive field placements. The combination of course work and hands-on experience at Curry allowed me to connect what I learned in class about child development with what the children under my care actually demonstrated."
A native of Grafton, NH, Richie followed in the footsteps of family members who attended Curry College, choosing his education major and concentration because he always knew he wanted to work with children.
"The early care option afforded me the flexibility I enjoy in educating younger preschool-age children. Working with Curry professors led to field placements and practicums that confirmed this was the best age group for me."
At Curry, Richie knows he "learned a lot and met lots of great people and professors who continue to help" him, both personally and professionally. "I wouldn't trade my time at Curry for anything. Living on campus all four years really helped me grow up."
Richie competed in rugby during an exciting season where his club team reached the division championship game, and he met some of his best friends at Curry. "We established bonds that remain strong."
Richie cites his education professor and faculty advisor Dottie Alexander as the mentor he most appreciates.
"I still stay in touch with her and continue to ask her advice about professional issues. While I was at Curry, she recognized my natural ability as an early childhood educator and kept pushing me to connect my course work with the real-world situations I encountered in my practicums, telling me to 'be a teacher, not just a playmate.'"
Curry field placements at the Carriage Schoolhouse and the Discovery Schoolhouse in Milton (MA) also confirmed Richie's interest in child care administration, allowed him to interact with a wide range of children and families from diverse backgrounds and expanded his interaction with children from the sports field to the classroom. A self-study internship at the Reebok Child Care Center run by Bright Horizons also helped confirm his interest and ability in administration.
During Richie's sophomore summer of 2005, he took Professor Alexander's support to heart and started as a substitute teacher at the DHMC Child Care Center where he now works. After graduating from Curry, Richie was promoted to full-time teacher, then to lead teacher at the center and then to his present position as program coordinator. Emphasizing the importance of getting children into the outdoors, Richie has helped design, create and maintain a natural play yard that was started by Lori Harris, the current director of DHMC Child Care Center.
"A typical playground is a big open space with one metal climbing structure where children don't know what to do or have to wait in line to use the equipment," says Richie. "In our natural yard, they're always involved in some kind of activity. We embedded a slide to eliminate the fall zone, and we started a garden to let children plant, nurture and harvest vegetables. We also set up tents in the yard to make it an all-weather space. We agree with educator Rachel Carlson who says there's no bad weather, only bad clothes, so we try to be prepared for anything. We encourage children to play and explore, and we support them in their activities."
Richie now shares his experience with children in the outdoors - bringing the classroom curriculum outside - through presentations at professional conferences such as the Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. His goal is to become a child care center director with his own program.
"My experience at Curry College was the best four years of my life," says Richie. "The reassurance from professors that I could be successful in this field was invaluable. Getting my degree and shaking the president's hand at graduation was the ultimate accomplishment. I'm amazed at the Curry professors who remain interested in what I'm doing. They share professional opportunities and continue to wish me well. I couldn't ask for more."
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