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KCC Alumni Spotlight

Patrick Eckelmann

From Student to Educator: How KCC Shaped Patrick Eckelmann's Teaching Career

Seasoned educator Patrick Eckelmann got his start in early childhood education at Kingsborough Community College (KCC), which he describes as "one of the best teacher preparation programs in the country.”

“The early childhood program at KCC provided me with a grassroots education and experience that cultivated my own growth as a professional and would be shaped by my experiences throughout different phases of my life as a lifelong learner,” recalls the Class of 2002 graduate.

Born in Houston, Texas, his family relocated to Brooklyn when he was young and lived in Bensonhurst for a while before moving to Marine Park in the early 1990s.

Patrick praises his mother, who is also a KCC graduate, for nudging him to consider enrolling.

“To be honest, at first, I did not have a strong desire to pursue a college education. During high school, I had little to no direction in life, nor was I interested in continuing my schooling. I give honor and credit to my mother, Carmela, who encouraged me to go to college and take an interest in what opportunities may lie ahead and where they may lead me in the future. She sacrificed much in life, including working two full-time jobs as a nurse, so that I could attend college and one day become someone.”

He found his calling while working a job at a summer camp in the Adirondacks, just before starting classes at KCC. “It’s there that I rekindled a fond memory from my own childhood. While working with children and families, I decided this would be the career path I wanted to follow and learn more about in college.”

He has fond memories of his education courses and learning teaching strategies through fun, hands-on projects, as well as of two instructors, Delores Friedman and Charlene Kohler-Britton, who had a great impact on his life and career as an early childhood educator. “To this day, I remember classes where I learned about play through a variety of playful experiences, such as cooking, block building, singing with instruments, planting seeds, and playing with art materials within the model classroom. I also remember going on field trips around campus to examine different works of art and learning how to incorporate them into teaching children of various ages and stages of development.”

After observing a cooking lesson with preschoolers that went slightly awry, “Dr. Freidman saw the good that came out of that learning experience and was able to convey that the essence of good early childhood practice is within those “messy” moments, where you value the process rather than the product of learning. I was so grateful for her patience and for giving me a sense of self-worth when I was ready to give up. She was the hinge on the door that changed my outlook for the better.”

A pivotal assignment—and one of Patrick’s favorite memories—was in Dr. Delores Friedman’s early childhood course, where students were tasked with retelling the story of an important figure in history. “I decided to come dressed up in full costume as an early American patriot fighting for our freedoms and liberties within a young nation. I remember giving a memorized speech to an entire class. There was something about this assignment that made me feel comfortable speaking in front of people who were inclined to listen and learn from what I had to share. It was at that moment in my life that I experienced the art and ability to be able to teach others while being comfortable.”

What began as a student-teaching internship at Brooklyn College’s Early Childhood Center (ECC) turned into a part-time position as a preschool teacher in their afterschool program, followed by a full-time teaching position in their Universal Pre-K program. In the more-than-a-decade spent there, Patrick was able to attend Brooklyn College in the evening, earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, marry, and start a family.

In addition to being one of his education professors at KCC, Charlene Kohler-Britton was the ECC director. “I would not be where I am today if it were not for the dedication and support of Charlene, who shaped my thinking and approach to best practices in the classroom by serving as my mentor, friend, and colleague. She helped me understand the methodology behind my approach to interacting with and teaching young children. She taught me to see the “whole child” to gain a deeper understanding of who each child is and how they are making connections to their own learning.”

Patrick went on to become an instructional specialist, supporting 3K for All and Pre-K for All programs across New York City and the program director of an early childhood program on Staten Island.

In his current role as manager of professional learning and development at Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning in Central Pennsylvania, his life has come full circle. Responsible for creating, curating, and implementing “Seeds to Lead,” yearlong professional development initiatives for incoming teachers and staff, he is using play as a vehicle for the adults in the program to process information, reflect on their experiences, and see how their playful experiences relate to the work they are doing in their work roles.

When not working, you can find Patrick going on runs, spending time on the lake or around a campfire with his family and friends, working on DIY projects, and being a tourist in his new town. An echo of his class project, he also enjoys being a living historian, visiting local historical sites to retell the untold stories of people who fought and lived in America during the War of Independence.

Patrick advises current KCC students to use every experience as a learning opportunity, whether good or bad. “Life’s lessons are not found in text books but in how we perceive life and reflect on it in the moment. Do not take these opportunities for granted. Use this time in life to discover who you are and what you are passionate about. Make connections with your professors, classmates, and advisors so that you can follow your dreams and achieve your goals.”