As the Williams Children’s Center begins its transformation into a College-managed facility, it will do so with a new director. The search committee formed to fill the new position named Sarah Cady Becker as its number one choice. The Center had been under the management of Child Care of the Berkshires for the past 22 years, but this past winter, the College took it over and began looking to employ a new director.
The search committee was made up of faculty and staff who have been part of child care committees, developmental psychologists and parents whose children have attended the Center. The search was conducted nation-wide and drew a number of candidates. “The candidates on the short list were highly qualified and the finalists were exceptionally strong,” said Steve Klass, vice-president of operations. The committee was able to narrow the pool down to its top five candidates, out of which Becker emerged as the top choice.
The committee, chaired by psychology professor Marlene Sandstrom, was impressed with Becker’s approach to early childhood education. “The search committee was stuck by her passion for early childhood, her grasp of educational curricula, policy and goals, and perhaps most importantly, her natural insight into what most motivates children to stretch and develop through play,” Sandstrom said.
Becker comes to the College after 11 years of teaching at the Bennington College Early Childhood Center. She was co-director at the Center and has also been principal of a progressive independent school. She attended both Wesleyan University and Goddard College, receiving degrees in education and family and educational studies.
“I wanted to once again have the opportunity to direct a school,” Becker said in reference to her new position. “It has been wonderful to see the commitment that Williams has [made] for the Children’s Center and to [be] a part of the process that will bring students and faculty into the life of the [Center] for research and scholarship.”
Becker has numerous goals for her time at the Center. She has already begun speaking with various employees of the College, but she says she will begin the transition primarily by listening and having conversations about the culture of the school and changes that may need to be made. But for the most part, she wants to focus the learning and thought processes of children, she said.
As part of her management of the Center, Becker hopes to involve both parents of the Center’s children and also, perhaps more importantly, students at the College. Becker spoke about numerous fields of study that she sees coinciding with the interests of the Center that could provide opportunities for students to supplement their coursework. Fields she named included brain development, childhood psychology, language acquisition, gender studies, the performing and visual arts, mathematical thinking, environmental studies, health care, law and social work and education. To her, every level of education relates back to early childhood. Her hope is that students will volunteer in classrooms and suggest projects or research that they would like to do with the children.
Becker will arrive on campus around June 2 to begin the process of hiring staff and making the transition to College management of the facility. She expressed enthusiasm for being part of such a transition. “I have always been interested in processes of change for children and adults – how people work toward change, how they embrace change and how they work through the tasks of change in a community,” Becker said.