Anastasia ’21 Balances Work, School, and Newborn to Graduate

April 21, 2021 Caitlin Burns

Arcadia University student Briana Anastasia
By Katherine Haines '21, '22

Education major Briana Anastasia ’21 has always known she wanted to work with children, and having a child of her own and continuing her education has solidified that passion. 

A native of Northeast Philadelphia, Anastasia worked at Dumpling Grounds Daycare Center from the time she turned 15. She also worked at Special People in the Northeast (SPIN) in the Autistic Support classroom after getting her associate’s degree in Psychology at Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). 

By working toward her degree in the School of Education’s PreK-4 Program for Early Childhood Education Working Professionals, Anastasia has continued working at Dumpling Grounds while earning her bachelor’s degree. She graduated with her associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education from CCP  in 2018, then matriculated into Arcadia’s bachelor’s program in January 2019. 

The program, which requires students to complete fieldwork at their employers, also exposes them to other teaching environments through secondary student-teaching experiences in a K-4 setting. Anastasia was a student teacher in a first-grade classroom at Philadelphia Academy Charter School (PACS). 

“Now that I’ve had the opportunity to work in autistic support and from nursery through first grade levels, my true passion is in infant toddler care,” said Anastasia. “The kids are fun and energetic and they’re so smart, they’re just a joy to be around. Kids bring that little light out in you and sometimes they teach me more than I can teach them.”

Arcadia’s undergraduate PreK-4 Program for Early Childhood Education Working Professionals is an online program designed to support students who are working full time in early childhood centers.  Since courses went to an All-Modes Ready format last March, Anastasia was able to balance work and school easier, including not taking time off after the birth of her daughter in May 2020.

“Originally, when I found out I was pregnant I worried that school would be too hard to complete—then I ended up having a baby during a pandemic,” said Anastasia. “But everyone in the cohort and at Arcadia were just so amazing and supportive. It really became this extra family and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

After graduating, Anastasia will be starting on her master’s degree at Arcadia in infant-toddler mental health under the supervision of the Dumpling Grounds Daycare’s director, who was her mentor for her bachelor’s program. Anastasia hopes to continue working in childcare, but in an assistant director role to help develop more programs and classrooms.

“Because of me being in this program and seeing how it’s possible for me to work and go to school, two of the women at the daycare are in the same associate apprenticeship program I completed at Community College of Philadelphia and another is in the 2022 cohort at Arcadia for their bachelors,” said Anastasia. “Now that I’m about to graduate with my bachelor’s I am qualified to be a mentor for the girls in the associate program, like my boss is a mentor for me.”

Anastasia will be one of the eight students in the first cohort of the Program for Working Early Childhood Professionals graduating this spring. Anastasia believes that things happen for a reason, and her different work experiences, motherhood, and her education will lead her to what she’s meant to do. 

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t just trust my instinct on being in this field and continuing to listen to people who are there to support me, like my coworkers, my friends, my family,’’ said Anastasia. “Being in school has made me happy and I’ve gained new friends and new support systems that I didn’t know were available when I was just starting out at 18 years old.”

educationclass of 2021infant toddler mental healthschool of education