Thirty-one years ago, Rose Ann Martinez began working at University Presbyterian Children’s Center in the Monte Vista neighborhood as a substitute teacher, and she has no desire to leave yet.
“It’s the kids who keep me here,” said Martinez, who teaches 2- and 3-year-olds.
The University Presbyterian Children’s Center (UPCC) provides high-quality, early childhood education while promoting the development of young children. For instance, classrooms and playgrounds are set up into learning centers and activity zones for children to participate in art, dramatic play, library, music and science, among others.
Even more so, UPCC plays a significant role in the community by educating children of all ethnic backgrounds, as parents from across the Alamo City enroll their children here because of the center’s close proximity to downtown where many of them work or go to college. Some of those nationalities include Korean, El Salvadoran, Russian and Chinese, explains Cindi Catllin, UPCC director, who also has been here for 31 years after first starting as a teacher.
“Most of our children are Hispanic. In every classroom, there’s a bilingual teacher,” Catlin said, adding that all lead teachers have an associate’s degree in early childhood education. Some have bachelor’s degrees.
UPCC serves 100 children, ages 7-½ months to 5-years-old, per year. About 10 families annually pay tuition on a sliding-scale fee through a scholarship fund. “Through our investment fund, people can donate in memory of one of our staff members who has passed away, such as Blanche Garza Lomas, a single mom and teacher who died of breast cancer,” she said.
For many area students pursuing careers in education at San Antonio College, University of the Incarnate Word and UTSA, UPCC provides an environment for them to put into practice what they learn in the classroom. “What’s unique is how much community connection we have through entry level teachers who we mentor or who come to observe a class as part of a college course,” Catlin said.
Liesel Mena, 25, who teaches in her native Honduras, taught at UPCC for two years after graduating from Trinity University in 2010 with a degree in childhood education. “I liked the teachers and how they all support each other,” she said. “I loved the kids, of course. And I like the teaching method which encourages play but focuses on education.”
Catlin believes that the center fulfills an important purpose for the community and families. “The benefit to the community is we provide a quality learning environment for kids and their families,” she said. “And parents allow us to try new things in the classroom. They value our commitment to early childhood education.”
Like Rose Ann Martinez, Cindi Catlin has enjoyed a rewarding career that spans three decades. And like her colleague, the director has no plans to retire any time soon.
“Every day is a new journey,” Catlin said. “It’s exciting when we get a student teacher, and they are so timid at first, but then you see them grow and blossom.”