Fall 2014 Outstanding Alumnus Tracy Ison

Nominated for her dedication, service and professionalism while working in the field of Early Childhood Education, Tracy Ison is the recipient of the Northland Pioneer College Fall 2014 Outstanding Alumni Award.

At 16, Ison was faced with a difficult decision; she was starting a new family, was newly-married, and needed to decide between finishing high school and keeping her family as her top priority. Ison chose her family, and made the difficult sacrifice of not finishing high school. “You know, I always wanted to be a mom,” said Ison. “That’s been my priority my whole life, so it was easy for me to decide that that’s what I wanted to be.” After her decision, Ison began the career of being a home childcare provider, opening her own business to help provide for her family.

Claude Endfield and Tracy Ison
Claude Endfield and Tracy Ison

After years of gaining experience and knowledge in childcare, Ison came in contact with Claude Endfield, program coordinator and professor in Early Childhood Education at Northland Pioneer College (NPC). Ison credits Endfield for “starting it all” and being the biggest help in obtaining the degrees and certifications she earned.

Endfield first introduced Ison to NPC by recommending that Ison take advantage of a free workshop sponsored by NPC. After Ison attended the workshop, she consulted Endfield further on how to continue her education. “As I got closer and closer to getting my GED® and my degree, I knew I wanted to finish what I started so that I could be that example to my kids. I knew I wanted my kids to finish high school and then get degrees of their own, so I knew I had to start… for them.”

Endfield was always there encouraging Ison. “After that first training I took at NPC, Claude told me ‘you know, you can get your GED®,’ and then after that I took the test and got my GED®! And she was still there telling me ‘you know you only have to do a little bit more to get your CDA,’ and then ‘you only have to do a little bit more to get your associate’s,’ always telling me about trainings and new certifications that I was able to do. She helped me to keep going further and further.” That support helped Ison earn her GED®, her Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, and then her associate degree in Childhood Education at NPC. Now with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Prescott College, Ison takes pride in being the first college graduate on both sides of her family and is proud to apply what she has learned at NPC to her business of childcare.

After obtaining her degrees, Ison has remained in the White Mountains area and now has one of the highest rated, state-licensed group childcare homes in Navajo and Apache counties. While still running her at-home business, Ison applied for, and was designated as a Quality First Family Child Care home by the First Things First Navajo-Apache Regional Partnership council for Navajo and Apache counties. She is the only home with that distinction in the White Mountains and has earned a 4 out of 5 star rating from the partnership. As a result of being in this project, Ison has been able to apply what she has learned from NPC and has made many improvements to her home-based childcare setting. Although Ison is now qualified to teach in the public school system, she has decided to continue to operate her family childcare business to meet local needs for safe, quality childcare in the White Mountains.

Ison also acknowledges that this journey has not been easy. Balancing her busy schedule of work, school and family definitely made Ison question at times whether it was all worth it. “There were days when I wanted to give up, but my kids were always my motivation,” said Ison. “I can think of one day when I just had no time, and I started crying and was just thinking ‘I can’t do this. I can’t work full time, go to school, and have a family.’ But it was my daughter who told me ‘don’t give up, I’ll do extra chores, I’ll help with anything you need, you just can’t quit now.’ It was then that I realized this was worth it because I was definitely doing this for them too.”

Ison enjoys seeing that many of her goals have been fulfilled, especially as her own children have all graduated or are on track to graduate from high school. One daughter has since gone on to obtain an associate’s degree in cosmetology and is now working toward receiving her own CDA. Another daughter in high school plans to go to college to pursue a degree to eventually become a surgeon. Seeing her daughters preparing for college and taking college courses, Ison also feels the need to go back to school to try and receive her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. However, when Ison goes back to school, she’ll have a slightly different focus once she receives her degree. “I’ve received so much help myself, I want to give back and help teach other adults how to take care of younger kids.” While Ison has yet to decide which school to attend to pursue her master’s degree, she continues to improve her childcare business and eagerly waits to see what the future will hold.

As the fall 2014 Alumnus Award recipient, Ison will receive a plaque recognizing her selection, a tuition gift certificate and mementos of the college.

By NPC Staff Writer Michael Nilsson