Women to Watch: Education

Leslie King, Cape Fear Community College Child Development Center Director


With more than three decades of experience working with children under five years old, Leslie King personifies patience. Just don’t call her work “day care.”

“Please do not use the word ‘day care’ one time in this article or I will just faint,” King says half-jokingly.

“That term — it just doesn’t describe what we’re doing anymore. I think now there’s really a different purpose and approach going on.”

King has led the Cape Fear Community College Child Development Center as director for more than five years and has worked tirelessly to advocate for young children and those who care for them.

“Being in this environment where I can watch, sit in, observe and build a relationship with these children, it is just blowing my mind what happens,” King says. “It is just extraordinary the development that occurs.”

At the center, King is driven by the philosophy that interaction with and among students is the key to a successful program. These interactions, she says, help children develop the skills they will use for the rest of their lives.

“We focus on social and emotional skills because content is easily found and content changes in a nanosecond,” King says. “What we need to do is teach children how to think, how to use their brain, which is developing at an exponential rate during those first 2,000 days of life.”

The center cares for about 55 children who typically enter the program at 12 weeks old. The program gives children a flexible schedule that respects their autonomy and encourages their natural curiosity.

“I am a believer that children are born basically good,” King says. “Our job is to let them make mistakes and to let them make choices that might not be so good because that’s where they begin to develop a conscience. They begin to learn that their behavior impacts everyone else’s behavior.”

Children aren’t the only ones benefiting from King’s expertise. The center is an educational lab where students studying childhood development, nursing, occupational therapy and other related fields can observe and interact with the children.

King’s passion for education spans decades. She decided to become a teacher when she was eight, after her mother brought her twin siblings home from the hospital.

King earned a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from East Carolina University and began her career in early childhood development in 1981, eventually working her way up to become director of the Early Childhood Learning Center.

King then pursued a Master’s degree in school administration from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She worked in various capacities in the field, including as an educational consultant in the public schools before landing her current position.

Through her experiences, King says she realizes the challenges involved in education today.

“Having worked in education in several different capacities, we’re still talking about the same issues in education that we’ve been talking about for 30 years. The same issues exist,” she says. “We have pockets of success in this community and the nation, but we have not really figured out the mousetrap.”

These challenges only fuel King’s passion for promoting early childhood development and starting high-quality learning as early as possible to best prepare future generations.


To view more of photographer Jeff Janowski’s work, go to www.jeffjanowski.com.



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