Over 50 and in a Nontraditional Field, Vanguard Winner David Ige Crushes Stigma on Two Fronts

Vanguard winner David Ige (center) in the BMCC Early Childhood Center

February 1, 2024

Child Care/Early Childhood Education (ECE) major David Ige at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) is one of seven 2024 Vanguard Award winners, community college students across New York state recognized for excelling in their pursuit of a nontraditional career.

Nontraditional occupations are defined by the Nontraditional Employment & Training (NET) program—which presents the Vanguard Award—as those in which one gender comprises less than 25% of those employed within that field.

CUNY students embarking on nontraditional careers dominate this year’s winning team, comprising four out of seven winners.

In addition to David Ige at BMCC, they include Nadia Baguaei, Aisha Frampton-Clerk and Haixia Guo from Queensborough Community College; Chris Dailey and Steven Rathburn from Broome Community College, SUNY and Krystal McKinney from Alfred State College.

What makes Ige stand out among the winners is that he is not only pursuing a nontraditional career—he, himself is a nontraditional student, having started college at age 50.

Treating stigma as an opportunity to educate others

David Ige“When asked why I started college at age 50, I’m excited to share the joy of trying something new,” Ige says. “The challenges of achieving an ECE degree at my age are numerous. I’m a husband and father while also being self-employed, and the last couple years of meeting standards and deadlines of classwork assignments has kept my body and mind hopping.”

Ige says the questions he gets, regarding his new career, can be boiled down to these common threads: “Why would a man want to work with children? How can somebody my age only be starting college? Don’t I have to earn more money than what a preschool teacher’s salary pays?”

These questions, he says, reflect the stigmas that male early childhood educators face every day—but he spins them into a positive interaction.

“The questions people ask provide me with an opportunity to teach others,” he says. “My answers include: ‘With three- and four-year-olds, time flies by with fun and flair. This age range has the highest ratio of cool/important-to-impact status. I’m in college as a late bloomer. We are thankfully now a dual-income family.”

For anyone who doubts why a man would enter the field of early childhood education, Ige’s enthusiasm for the field speaks for itself.

“I had no idea that 90% of a person’s cognitive, emotional, social, physical and linguistic brain capacities develop before the age of five,” he says.

“Those years are packed with the developmental energy of daily challenges being navigated, choices being tested and explored, and the individuality that gets revealed through spending quality time within a community of learners.”

When diversity is there and you are delivering quality content, everyone benefits.”

L-R: David Ige and Kirsten Cole
L-R: David Ige and Kirsten Cole

“I was a professional actor from age five to about 40,” says Ige, who appeared on kid’s shows and later played roles including that of the teenage surfer Rusty, in the movie “North Shore.”

“I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, barely graduated high school but immediately received a full two-year scholarship at a drama conservatory in London,” he says.

“The conservatory experience led to the opportunity to move to NYC where my acting life continued. I met my wife through the theater world, we have a daughter and all three of us are dedicated New Yorkers!”

Once established in New York, Ige founded an entertainment company that customized performance packages for corporate events and private parties.

“We did very well until the pandemic hit,” he says. “When everything about my business came to a standstill, I was able to increase involvement at Bank Street Head Start, which my daughter attended, and where I had already been an established volunteer.”

His studies and time at Bank Street Head Start confirmed for Ige that education is about process, he says, “and theatrical conservatory training techniques combined with foundational knowledge of ECE is where I would describe my style.”

He explains that this means, “part improvisation, part method-to-the-madness thinking—all the while channeling potential chaos through the discipline of creative curriculum and child-centered, open-ended inquiry.”

“I now understand the big-picture importance of a progressive, child-centered approach to early learning and am doing my best possible work to emulate for other families the same level of commitment provided to mine,” Ige says.

Being a male teacher in the early childhood classroom also positions Ige as a kind of role model.

“Gender diversity—diversity of all types—should be a norm in all classrooms,” he says. “When diversity is there and you are delivering quality content, everyone benefits from the experience. The second way I see myself as a role model is by encouraging others to take on new challenges at any age.”

“Hopefully, more males will follow in David’s footsteps and become teachers of young children.”

David Ige was nominated by Early Children Education Professor Kirsten Cole, an instructor and researcher who has engaged as a faculty fellow and co-led BMCC projects including one that examined  factors impacting men’s decisions to teach in early childhood settings.

“David has a 4.0 GPA. His written assignments were thoughtfully researched and well presented. He chose to research the impact of poverty on the lives of young children, a topic directly relevant to his experiences working in a Head Start program,” Professor Cole writes in her nomination essay.

BMCC has had a number of Vanguard winners over the years and provides mentoring and other services to ensure the success of nontraditional students.

Antonette McKain, Director of Evening/Weekend and Off-Site Programs and the Perkins Grant Officer at BMCC, says that students engaged in fields that are nontraditional for their gender need support systems that are “not only academic but also career, socially and emotionally appropriate.”

“The college’s Perkins Grant provides many avenues of support for nontraditional students through the Career and Technical Education (CTE) IMPACT Peer Mentoring program, as well as through nontraditional 21st Century career workshops and seminars,” McKain says.

“More men are needed in the field of Early Childhood Education—which is critical to society—and David is proof that it is possible for males to succeed in this endeavor,” she adds. “Hopefully, more males will follow in David’s footsteps and become teachers of young children.”

Vanguard Committee balances academic and out-of-classroom success, to build a compelling application  

The BMCC Vanguard Committee, which supports the nomination of students for the award, was at first comprised of just one person, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for Academic Support Services Janice Zummo.

Now it also includes Dean for Student Affairs Michael Hutmaker and Dean of Faculty Gail Fernandez.

Dean Zummo explains that the Vanguard Award requires winners not only to demonstrate academic success, but to show they have partaken in meaningful out-of-classroom experiences.

At BMCC, these activities—which enhance learning but are not credit-bearing—are documented in the Co-Curricular Transcript (CCT). The CCT gives BMCC graduates a competitive edge and accompanies their academic transcripts when they apply to a CUNY bachelor’s degree program.

“Faculty work with students in the classroom and have a comprehensive understanding of the student’s academic ability,” says Associate Dean Zummo. “Student Affairs has a deep understanding of a student’s accomplishments and CCT activities outside of the classroom. We can identify students with a strong portfolio of out-of-class accomplishments and provide compelling details for their nomination packet.”

 

The Vanguard Award is sponsored by the New York State Education Department through a Carl D. Perkins grant. It is administered by the Nontraditional Employment & Training (NET) Program at the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society, University of Albany. For more information, visit here.

The Teacher Education department at BMCC offers five programs: Child Care/Early Childhood Education, Childhood Education, Bilingual Childhood Education, Secondary Education and School Health Education. For more information, call (212) 220-1274, stop by 199 Chambers Street, Room S-616, or email teachereducation@bmcc.cuny.edu.

Learn about other men who have excelled in the BMCC Early Childhood Education at BMCC and are now making important contributions to the field of teaching. Visit Men in Childhood Education: BMCC Alumni.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Child Care/Early Childhood Education major David Ige is one of seven 2024 Vanguard Award winners statewide

  • The Vanguard Award, sponsored by the NYS Education Dept. through a Carl D. Perkins grant, is administered by the Nontraditional Employment & Training (NET) Program at the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society, University of Albany

  • The NET defines nontraditional occupations as those in which one gender comprises less than 25% of the employment within that field.

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