Claude Endfield fits the profile of a typical community college instructor. She cares about her student’s success, goes the extra 30 or 100 miles when needed, and shares her love for early childhood education with everyone she meets.
And if you were to ask anyone in Northeastern Arizona who has made the greatest impact on the region’s early childhood programs, chances are her name will be near the top of any list. That is Claude’s passion, and she travels the roads and wagon paths to insure that every child has the chance to succeed.
Claude grew up in McNary in the late 50s and early 60s, at the time the largest town between Phoenix and Albuquerque, the daughter of a fifth-generation Arizonan. Her mother, a French war bride, worked at the McNary Post Office. Her mother instilled in Claude a love of learning and respect for other people.
Claude grew up wanting to be a teacher. As a Head Start parent, Claude had volunteered in her children’s classrooms many times. There she recognized a need for skilled aides to assist teachers with the youngsters.
Northland Pioneer College had just opened its doors in the fall of 1973, and was offering the classes she would need to take another step toward her goal. “ECD (Early Childhood Development) courses came to us at our work site. I was finally able to fulfill a childhood dream because NPC was there.”
Claude already had earned some college credits. Her high school years had been at Alchesay High School and at a boarding school, the Wasatch Academy in Mt. Pleasant, Utah, where she had completed several advanced level classes. She had also taken a couple of summer sessions at Arizona State. So in the spring of 1974 she became one of the first 10 graduates from NPC. She then went on to complete her bachelor’s degree at ASU, including a teaching practicum at Whiteriver Elementary, and a master’s degree from Nova University.
In 1988, she became a full-time instructor for NPC, creating and molding the ECD division into one of the top programs in the country. “The goal of community colleges is to reflect the needs and respond to our communities. NPC is doing that by developing two new ECD programs in response to those needs – a two-week intensive Family Child Care Basics class in Whiteriver and specialized training for Residential and Group Home Caregivers.”
She praises her 15-member advisory group, who provide community and industry input, for insuring “what we do results in a better life for children through increased professional development for those working with kids.” NPC courses train workers caring for babies, pre-schoolers, K-3 and in residential care or group homes.
“Once you get into the field, you never want to leave. Your interest becomes more intense the longer you work with kids.” She has also observed that workers have a better understanding if taught the skills first, then the theory.
“Working with people who are already in the field, teaching them theory, you see a light bulb come on – ‘So that’s why we do that!’ That’s why I like the approach used by the community colleges, to teach hands-on first, then theory. The universities tend to do just the opposite, theory then practical,” she said.
Claude knows first-hand how addictive working with children can be. Her children and now her grandchildren are working in ECD. They are all involved in the Apache Family First program, planning and developing a conference at Alchesay High School. Eight Alchesay students have earned Certificates of Proficiency in ECD from NPC and are working on their national certification.
Claude works directly with five high schools in the NPC district: Alchesay, Blue Ridge, Show Low, Holbrook and Winslow. All, except Winslow, operate their own childcare centers. “These are not just babysitters. They are becoming professional caregivers, learning the right way to do things,” she continued. “Students can specialize in 6 areas of ECD at NPC. The management focus is very valuable for administrators since it includes both hands-on program operation experience and online instruction.”
In Arizona, K-3 teachers are now also required to have birth to 8-years-old educator/caregiver experience. The national endorsement is for 0 to 5. Claude is supporting efforts to require the national ECD endorsement for teachers in all of the lower grades.
Claude is also a strong advocate for the First Things First program, aimed at providing comprehensive health and educational opportunities for 0 to 5-year-olds. “These (state) budget cuts in childcare programs are hurting the kids and me personally. We were just starting to make some progress, progress I have been advocating for since 1973.”
A 39-year resident of the White Mountain Apache Reservation, Claude’s reputation has attracted international attention. She has conducted workshops for the Yupik Eskimo Head Start workers in Bethel, Alaska; presented policy and procedures development workshops for TRIBAL TANF programs at their regional conferences (2011, 2013); is a repeat presenter at several conferences sponsored by the Southwest Consortium of Indian Head Start Programs and National Tribal Child Care Conferences; and completed a one-semester sabbatical on Developing Policies and Procedures for the National Child Care Bureau, Washington, D.C.
She has successfully written additional grants, funded by Navajo Nation Program of Self-Reliance and First Things First, to assist NPC students with furthering their professional development in early childhood, with many successfully obtaining their nationally recognized Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Claude has served many years as a grant panelist in Washington, D.C. for funding Head Start programs; worked with the Indigenous Forum on Investigating Quality in Early Childhood, University of Victoria in British Columbia; and published several professional articles, the latest “Defining Quality: A Personal Journey” in the Canadian Journal of Native Education.
Claude is mentoring others to pick up some of her duties and travel to meet with Childhood Development Associate (CDA) advisors throughout NPC’s service area. She wants to keep teaching “for a couple more years. I don’t know how not to work.” Then she’ll become a “consultant, coming up with new ideas for those in the field.”
Always the salesperson for the Early Childhood Development program, Claude is ready to answer questions about educational opportunities. She’s probably not in her office, so leave her a message at (928) 524-7335 or (800) 266-7845, ext. 7335.