Cobber Kids is an accredited early childhood learning center operated by Concordia College. The proximity to campus makes it a good resource for Concordia families, and it’s available to the community as well. Because of its connection to Concordia, it serves as an excellent place for students to gain work experience in a preschool or toddler classroom or as a volunteer opportunity.
Amanda Pieters, the director of Cobber Kids, sees many benefits for Concordia students who want to work at the center.
“This is a job that requires you to be fully present,” she says. “Any other stressors and things happening outside of this moment you have to set down, which I think can be a healthy and helpful reset for your mind.”
Working with children also requires being able to think on your feet. Student staff can learn skills in adaptability as well as communication not only with their co-workers and supervisors but with the youngsters as well. Children communicate very differently from adults and picking up those skills — especially for those hoping to work with littles long term — is beneficial. It’s a great opportunity to learn classroom management, such as how to set boundaries and redirect behavior as well as teach in a way that children can understand and learn from. Other techniques put into action at Cobber Kids include keeping the littles on task and teaching them different skills such as sharing and using kind words. Plus, it’s close to campus and allows for flexible scheduling so students can work around their classes.
Levi Kovic ’24 is one of the Concordia students who works at the center full time during the summer. He loves interacting with children and, as a music education major, sees himself possibly working with young age groups in the future. Kovic says he likes the parallels between childcare, education, and music. His position at Cobber Kids has helped him see the reality in potentially working with elementary students, who aren’t that much older than the children he’s working with now.
“It’s given me a lot of experience with younger kids,” he says. “I still am not exactly sure which age groups I want to teach for the rest of my life, so it’s been really nice to have experience with younger kids and just see how much I like that age group.”
Ava Pfeifer ’24, Bismarck, N.D.
Major: Vocal Music Education
Ava Pfeifer ’24 also sees herself teaching in elementary schools in the future and has similar sentiments. She’s learned the importance of giving children clear instructions because they often need to be walked through tasks step by step while they’re learning, which is different from working with older kids.
“Setting clear expectations is a big thing that I’ve come to realize is important in the classroom and also setting boundaries,” she says. “It’s tough to tell little kids ‘no,’ but it’s really important.”
Pfeifer also notes that receiving feedback from the teachers has been really helpful and she feels like a “teacher in training,” which is beneficial to those who plan to become educators.
“I’m on my feet almost every instant of the day,” she says. “I think it’s just fun playing with the kids. Every day is different and also there’s a routine to it. It’s like second nature to me now.”
Cobber Kids is full of energy and joy, and it’s a highlight of everyone’s day.
“I think as college kids we’re constantly around peers and professors, so it’s been really refreshing to get another view on life,” Kovic says. “It’s been really fun to just see that kind of boundless energy. I think kids also fundamentally view the world in a different way and it’s really nice to get a fresh perspective because they’re brutally honest.”
Pfeifer agrees that working at Cobber Kids isn’t only beneficial for career reasons but is also a fun and personally fulfilling place to work.
“I just love working with the kids,” she says. “They show a different side of themselves every day.” She adds that watching them learn is fascinating. “I see them learn every day. One thing they might not understand, and then the next day they’re like, ‘oh, yeah.’ It’s just crazy to see that learning process happening.”
Whether students are education majors looking for experience, in the social work program and looking for volunteer hours, or just plain love working with children, there are plenty of opportunities at Cobber Kids.
The center hires about 12 to 20 student employees each semester, depending on availability for each student. The position is for a classroom aide to assist teachers and is meant to be for students looking to engage with children since teachers take care of the lesson planning. They help with play activities, snack time, and supervision of the kiddos. The two and a half hour training session as well as pediatric first aid and CPR certifications are paid hours and covered by the college. Students don’t need prior training because Cobber Kids will provide all the training they need. Students will be fingerprinted and must complete a background check.
Students working a full-time shift in the summer typically show up in the morning and spend all day with the children. They get plenty of playtime, and the littles also get things like “circle time” where they go through days, dates, and weather. There’s time for music and to play outside or in the gym and some quiet time for the children too, which could involve reading or even doing yoga before a nap and more group activities later in the day. There are three different age groups to work with and each get their own classroom.
Families Love Cobber Kids
Keeping teacher aides on staff is not only great for the students working but the children too. They meet a variety of adult influences, and they love their “Cobber buddies.” The preschoolers are introduced to people of all ages, genders, religions, cultures, and backgrounds. These connections are valuable for little learners who are soaking up everything about the world they’re growing up in. It helps them to have different adult role models to look up to. Plus, Cobber Kids is more than just a daycare.
“You say ‘daycare’ and many think, ‘oh, you’re just going to watch movies or hang out and eat Cheez-Its,’” Pieters says. “There’s plenty of fun, but these kids are being exposed to experiences that are helping them develop all of the parts of themselves — social, emotional, cognitive, fine motor, gross motor, etc. — and it’s really fun to see them grow and change.”
Young learners are important and pick up a lot in those early years, so they need quality education and care. Pieters firmly believes that children “deserve quality, safe, awesome places to learn and grow and be themselves and explore.”
Providing a trustworthy and quality place of care also helps parents who need that resource to be able to work. Sixty percent of the families that use Cobber Kids are Concordia faculty and staff, and students are eligible to enroll their children as well. This way, parents at Concordia aren’t far from their children and can stay at work and get a quality education while their children are safe and learning too. Pieters is also more than willing to help students find resources to cover childcare costs by looking into state aid, early learning scholarships, and other options so they can worry less about balancing tuition and childcare.
How to Apply
Openings for fall will be posted on Handshake and there are opportunities for full-time positions during the summer, as well as an internship position for those who work for Cobber Kids and want to go further. Students can apply through Handshake or contact Pieters with questions or to volunteer.
Published August 2023