Wichita State prof to be honored at Children's Champions Gala
James Snyder, distinguished professor of psychology at Wichita State University, has been nominated to receive a Children’s Champion award by Child Start for his 34 years of service to the Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Snyder will be honored at the Children’s Champion Award Gala at 7 p.m. Friday, May 16, at Exploration Place.
Snyder joined the faculty at Wichita State after receiving his Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University in 1977, and he started working with Head Start the following year. There’s nothing in Snyder’s job description as a professor of psychology that requires him to work with community organizations – he says he did it for other reasons.
“I really do enjoy it,” said Snyder. “I see contributing to programs that support early childhood development as a very important endeavor. It’s an opportunity to contribute outside the university setting to children and families who are under-resourced.”
He also says that working with children and families is personally rewarding.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “You can read stuff in books and you can teach stuff, but when you’re out in people’s lives, you learn what the real problems are. If you want to be a good model for students and to continue learning, staying involved keeps you sharp.”
Snyder’s “staying involved” is what drew the nomination from the Child Start board of directors and the Children’s Champions fundraiser committee.
“Everybody was really enthusiastic when the idea was offered up,” said Anne Maack, Child Start director of public affairs. “He touched a lot of lives. Giving continuously for that many years, it speaks for itself, and that’s why we’re really pleased to offer this honor.”
Highly valued work
Snyder’s involvement with Head Start has evolved over the years. When he started out, most of his work with the organization was formal childhood mental health training for staff. Eventually, Snyder started doing consultations in Head Start classrooms, observing children and teachers and trying to find out how to best serve them. His focus was on children who were challenging to teachers and trying to help the children learn to self-regulate behavior. He continued doing that almost continuously until a few years ago.
Snyder’s role with children now is less direct, consulting with family educators in Early Head Start. More recently, Snyder worked with graduate students to implement a home-visiting program for Head Start and other families in the community. Most of his work is indirect clinical supervision instruction to his WSU graduate students, though he’s stayed active in some direct service since the beginning.
Snyder has also been involved in research with Head Start, including an early evaluation of Early Head Start when it debuted in Wichita. He tracked child and family outcomes from 1995-2000 to judge the effects of intervention and created a formative evaluation to identify things that weren’t working. The project allowed Snyder to involve his students in hands-on research. Snyder provided classroom management training for Head Start classroom teachers, and has published the results of that training.
“Although this research was informal, it’s certainly recognized at Wichita State,” said Snyder. “That kind of community service and informal research is more highly valued at this university relative to other universities because Wichita State has a strong community connection.”
Two other nominees will receive Children’s Champions awards at the gala: Juanita Hayes, a long-time child care provider at “Little Pals Daycare Center,” who was nominated by Child Start’s Face Book friends community, and the Wichita Fire Department for their consistent efforts to educate and serve children.
The Children’s Champions Gala is a Child Start fundraiser taking place at Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean Blvd., in Wichita. Catering for the event is provided by Ciao Italian Kitchen. Tickets are available online for $75.