CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – On a rainy Friday afternoon last week, a steady collection of umbrellas appeared outside one of the ballrooms of the Austin Peay State University Morgan University Center. Inside, a few soaking wet individuals gathered around tables of food, and one woman entered the room to announce that small, penny-sized pieces of hail were at that moment pelting the sidewalks.
The bad weather, however, didn’t stop the friends and colleagues of Dr. Linda Sitton from trekking across campus to attend a reception commemorating her retirement from APSU after 14 years as director of the school’s Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance.
“She is simply incredible, inspiring, motivating and fights for the rights of young children by stressing the importance of educating child care providers and promoting high quality care for young children,” Claudia Rodriguez, a colleague and interim director of TECTA, said.
In 1998, Sitton started the TECTA program at APSU, which uses state and federal grant money to provide child care workers with the opportunities to earn credentials and degrees, all while fulfilling the Tennessee Department of Human Services’ required professional development hours. Under current state law, individuals only need to be 18 years old and have a high school diploma to work in child care centers.
“We kind of have it backwards,” Sitton previously said. “We have people with Ph.D.s teaching adults, but our most qualified people should be working with our youngest population.”
During Friday’s reception, she was flanked by well-wishers as pictures of her during her time at APSU flashed across a large screen. The images and the party’s atmosphere aroused feelings of nostalgia in Sitton, prompting her to look back over her years at APSU.
“We started with $90,000, and I had one employee,” she said. “We’ve gone to almost half a million dollars, and instead of offering one class a semester, we offer seven or eight now. Instead of having one part-time staff, we have four.”
She paused to look out the window. The rain had stopped, and the sun was beginning to peak back out.
“The best thing I’ve been able to contribute to TECTA is working with the State Management Office, writing the administrator’s credential’s for Tennessee,” she said. “I got to help design it and write it for Tennessee. It’s the 17th in the country. That I feel like is a legacy.”
Sitton’s legacy reaches back farther than that. She began her career as a public school teacher in 1977. She later founded The Settlement Inc. Pre-school and the Child Development Center, the first nationally accredited child care center in Clarksville.
A line soon formed for Sitton’s attention that Friday afternoon, so she mingled back with those wishing her well. But before she did, she turned and mentioned that she was happy to be leaving the program in Rodriguez’s competent hands.
“I feel like my work here is done,” Sitton said. “And the best thing is how I feel comfortable leaving it to the interim director. Claudia started as a TECTA student. She has done every step from the 30 hours of non-credit classes to earning her national accreditation, to earning her two-year degree to her four-year degree to just recently earning her master’s. She is an example that TECTA works.”
For more information on the TECTA program at APSU, visit the website at www.apsu.edu/tecta.
Photo Cutline: Congratulating Dr. Linda Sitton are Dr. Carlette Hardin, dean of the Austin Peay State University College of Education, left, and Tabitha Parker, former student of Sitton's, right. (Photo by Beth Liggett/APSU Public Relations and Marketing).