June 7, 2018 10:57 am
For only the second time in the college’s more than 50-year history, it will grant an honorary degree during the 2018 commencement ceremony. This honor is reserved for those who have demonstrated the highest level of educational service, humanitarian service, servant leadership, personal and professional accomplishments and entrepreneurial leadership.
This year’s recipient is Grace Koopmans, 98, retired educator and founder of the college’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program.
Mrs. Koopmans began her career at Pierce College in 1969, with the goal to establish the college’s Early Childhood Education program completely from the ground up.
She had extensive experience and training in early childhood education, after serving as a teacher and director for daycare centers, nursery schools, kindergartens and parent education programs.
“At the time, there were so many people working in daycare and nursery schools who were eager for formal training,” she said.
The program started as a department of one, with Mrs. Koopmans developing curriculum, planning and teaching courses, recruiting students and building a strong foundation for the program that would ultimately keep it successfully running for nearly 50 years.
“Very few educators have a chance to set up a program from scratch like I did,” she said. “I was able to put all the ideas I had into practice, which was so exciting.”
Mrs. Koopmans was part of the college’s early years when classes and administrative services were all located inside an old Albertson’s grocery store. In the early days of the program, ECE classes took place anywhere from inside the grocery store location to churches and high schools in the area.
Mrs. Koopmans ensured the ECE program was focused on ‘whole person’ education, which addresses physical, intellectual, emotional and social needs of the learner. This philosophy of education is now being supported by new research in a way that proves its importance in society.
Today, the college’s ECE program continues to teach comprehensive and compassionate training on the physical, emotional, intellectual and social needs of children.
This is a very special year to be honoring Mrs. Koopmans, as the college celebrates the first graduating class of students from the Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Teaching program.
“It is so wonderful that Pierce College now offers a four-year degree in early childhood education,” she said. “I remember having so many students who could not afford to go off to a four-year school for specialized training. It’s a huge accomplishment that they are now able to earn a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Teaching here at Pierce.”