William Paterson University Opens New Child Development Center on Campus, Providing Quality Education and Care to Children ages 2.5 through Kindergarten

Facility will also provide real-world experience for WP students seeking certification as early childhood education teachers


Ready for a tea party in the toddler room

From the moment you enter William Paterson University’s brand-new Child Development Center, it is apparent that you are somewhere special.

Set to kick off its inaugural school year on September 6, 2022, the Child Development Center is located inside the University’s most-recently purchased and refurbished building, at 1800 Valley Road in Wayne. Designed and managed by leaders in William Paterson University’s College of Education, the Center is currently accepting children ages two and a half through kindergarten, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, with extended/wrap-around care available starting at 7:45 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m.

“We are thrilled to open our doors to children from the surrounding communities, as well as to the children of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni,” says College of Education Dean Amy Ginsberg. “Our team of veteran educators have tapped their decades of experience to create the highest-caliber program of early childhood learning and care. We cherish the opportunity to help young children become lifelong learners and collaborators, and to ensure that they feel valued, respected, and loved under our roof.”

Current undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Education who are seeking certification as preschool-grade 3 teachers will be able to supplement their learning with applied experiences at the Child Development Center—a relationship that will not only benefit the University students but also the Center’s children and teachers, Ginsberg says.

William Paterson University’s Child Development Center teachers, most of whom have graduated from WP’s College of Education, have previously worked in public school districts, are New Jersey State-certified, and have at least a bachelor’s degree in education; the majority hold master’s degrees. The teachers come from diverse backgrounds, and most are bilingual, with the languages Spanish, Hungarian, Arabic, Italian and Polish spoken, in addition to English. Supporting the teaching staff at the Center will be Ronni Mendez, its social services coordinator and instructional coach.

“The children in our Center will benefit immensely from our carefully chosen teaching and support staff,” says Child Development Center Director Kristina Deak. “In addition, our facility will serve as a laboratory center supporting College of Education teacher candidates, modeling best practice in early childhood.  Through their coursework, research projects, and clinical experiences, teacher candidates have their fingertips on the pulse of current trends and best practices, and will undoubtedly elevate the level of learning—both academic and social—in our classrooms,” she adds.

The Center was created with inspiration from the Reggio Emilia Approach—a student-centered educational philosophy for preschool and primary education that views children as “competent and capable co-constructors of their own learning,” explains Professor Cindy Gennarelli, who serves as director of early childhood innovation in WP’s College of Education. Collaboration and child-driven communication, “in the 100 languages of children,” are paramount in the Center’s curriculum, which meets all New Jersey Department of Education standards, she adds.

As part of the Reggio Emilia Approach, the physical learning environment is very important—considered to be a teacher itself—so every space in the Center is very intentionally designed to promote self-guided, experiential learning; children are encouraged to explore, wonder, and question. Unlike more traditional daycare centers or preschools, walls, furnishings and learning materials in WP’s Center are mostly neutral tones. “Everything is calm, not overstimulating, and respective of children,” Gennarelli says. 

Even the hallways are interactive and inviting, including such features as a complimentary library of books; child-sized living room furniture; rugs with oversized throw pillows and cozy enveloping tunnels where little ones can relax; and a large interactive physics wall with various ramps, inclines, pathways, and chutes. A large common room includes a black-light area with fluorescent supplies, and a teacher resource center is filled to the brim with all sorts of educational materials ranging from pinecones to bird nests to puppets. Outside, there are two playgrounds—one for younger children and one for the older children.

The Center will host monthly family/parent outings and workshops to include family hikes starting right on the trails of the Center’s wooded property, to group yoga classes and car seat safety checks guided by campus police officers. Center administrators are also planning a rain boot drive.

“Even when it rains, we’ll take the children outside to play, and we believe that if you go out in the rain, you jump in puddles,” Gennarelli explains, with a smile. “It’s about joyful experiences.”

To register for William Paterson University’s Child Development Center, fill out the registration form here.

For additional information, call or email WP Child Development Center Director Kristina Deak at 973-720-3589 or DeakK@wpunj.edu.

  07/20/22