Semiconductor Veteran Shifts into Career in Early Childhood Education


- Angela Alcantara-Cruz

Term : October, 2016
Department : Education
Program : ECE: Supervision and Administration, Early Childhood Education

Angela Alcantara-Cruz is an early childhood educator with a unique backstory. After graduating from UCSC with a degree in sociology, she earned a master’s in organizational development and led a successful 20-year career in business operations in the semiconductor industry. She felt her career start to shift after becoming a parent and coping with some health issues. The pace and stress of her Silicon Valley job began to lose its appeal, and after investigating her options, she decided to enroll in UCSC Extension’s Early Childhood Education certificate program. The experience helped her realize her ultimate goal: to create her own after-school enrichment program for children. She earned certificates in both Early Childhood Education and ECE: Supervision and Administration in 2016.

What compelled you to study early childhood education?

I really like working with kids. When I got sick, I decided to quit my semiconductor career. At the time I was volunteering at a local preschool, and I realized that when I was working with kids, I didn’t feel sick. The kids gave me so much joy that I felt like I was getting better as I was spending time with them. I went from working in a highly intensive, stressful environment, managing a multi-million dollar division, and now I’m working with three-year-olds, teaching them shapes. It is so much more rewarding. My goal became helping children become good people—helping them enrich their lives, helping them develop their interests. I found my volunteer work to be very enjoyable, rewarding and fulfilling, much more so than my corporate career. I realized that I’d like to eventually start an after-school enrichment program for children, preschool and up, the kind of program that would benefit my children and others.

What courses stood out to you?

I really enjoyed “ECE: Creative Arts for the Young Child (Preschool Through Grade 3).” As an adult, you are used to complimenting a child’s work by saying that it’s nice or beautiful, but what I learned is, you have to compliment their process. Compliment the way they developed their masterpiece—not necessarily just how it looks. If you give children constructive feedback on how something is made, they will work harder to make things better, with the next piece of art that they make. They will learn to start their own dialogue about how they made the piece, how they did their dance, etc. That class has made me stop and think through how to talk to my children, as well as the kids at my school. It’s not just about art; this philosophy extends to other facets of children’s lives.          

Did you complete a practicum?

For my practicum, I volunteered over 150 hours at my daughter’s preschool. It was really refreshing to see how the school worked in person. It was interesting volunteering there while I was taking classes, because I took mental note of things that I would modify or adapt. I definitely thought it was a great experience to be in that environment, gaining experience. I now work there as a substitute teacher. While someday I want to run my own program, working at this school has been a great way to gain experience.

What was your overall impression of the program?

I knew that UCSC Extension had a great program, and I wanted the convenience and quality. Being in Silicon Valley, I appreciated being able to take online and hybrid classes. I really enjoyed all the instructors; they are very qualified. My experience working in the corporate environment has lent itself well to the early childhood education setting; it’s given me a different dynamic and perspective on the field. UCSC Extension was the best place for me to pursue my education.

Visit our Early Childhood Education and ECE: Supervision and Administration program pages to learn more about UCSC Extension’s unique offerings. Browse upcoming ECE and ECE:SA courses.
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