Yolanda Cruz to Retire After a Career Nurturing Children
May 28, 2020
It’s called “the Cruz Experience” and it’s what all parents want for their young children.
The experience is the passion Yolanda Cruz, a child development specialist, shares with young children and lab students at SAC’s Early Childhood Center. Part of it is the work in helping shape the educational foundation for children – by planning and implementing activities that enhance their cognitive, language, physical and social skills.
But the other part is the personal touch she adds. “I need to make sure that every day, each child in the classroom gets a hug and a smile from me,” she said.
For 37 years, Cruz has worked in the early childhood studies program at the program’s center, making sure children blossom in a safe environment. During that time she has taken care of children who range in age from infants, toddlers, preschool, and kindergarten age.
She knows the work of teaching young children is important. “Our program is so essential. Children have needs,” she said, adding “parents want to leave their children with someone who is caring, nurturing, that’s what so important.”
Deciding on a career nurturing children
She first became interested in child development while in high school. She worked as a student aide in a kindergarten class at an elementary school. She was impressed with the teacher who mentored her. “She had a fun spirit and I saw how the children gravitated to her,” remembered Cruz.
The children also gravitated to Cruz and she was intrigued by how they learned. After high school, she enrolled as a first-generation student at SAC and entered the child development program (now early childhood studies). At about the same time she received her associate degree, SAC opened its first Early Childhood Center in a portable building on campus. She joined the staff and stayed at SAC for the rest of her career.
Being a model for students
In addition to nurturing and teaching children, Cruz is a role model for lab students in the program and teaches them techniques in early childhood development. “They are nervous when they come into the classroom and they are not sure about the children,” she said. “I make them feel welcome and I tell them ‘this is your classroom.’”
She also gives them a piece of advice that helped her – that she wants to be the kind of teacher she would want for her own children.
She now runs into many of those former students who are now working in the community and they talk about “the Cruz Experience.”
She decided to retire at the encouragement of her family. “I am always helping other people and now it is time to take care of me and do the things I want to do,” she said. In the beginning that will be turning off her alarm clock and possibly starting a garden.
But she will not abandon her passion for education. “Hopefully I will volunteer and advocate for more programs for early childhood. It is so important and so critical that children have good experiences when they are not with their parents,” she said.