When young children enter Buffalo State University’s Child Care Center, they are immersed in colorful classrooms filled with educational toys, water tables, and reading nooks. They also spend plenty of time outdoors—romping on the playground, digging in a community garden, and exploring the campus with their caregivers.
Overseeing all this activity is Shae Herron, the center’s newest director—an Australian educator with high energy, a penchant for fashionable footwear, and a deep understanding of the emotions associated with parenthood.
“I love directing a center where parents feel good about leaving their children while they go to class or work,” said Herron, who joined the center in March 2022 and is the mother of three teenagers herself. “We have an open-door policy, and parents can also download an app where they can view photos and videos from the classroom that are posted daily.”
“I love directing a center where parents feel good about leaving their children while they go to class or work.”
— Shae Herron, Director, Buffalo State Child Care Center
Kathy Doody, associate professor of exceptional education who serves on the Child Care Center’s board of directors, noted that Herron was hired after an exhaustive comprehensive search.
Herron first came to the United States more than 20 years ago, after earning her bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education and elementary education from Charles Sturt University in Australia. She has since worked as a nanny; served as assistant director of the Childtime Learning Center in Williamsville, New York; and directed the Gloria J. Parks Community Center after-school program, where she mentored and tutored preteens and teens for nine years.
She said she was thrilled to see the Buffalo State opening.
“I’ve wanted to run a day care or preschool since I was 4 years old,” she said.
Herron joined the Buffalo State Child Care Center during its rigorous reaccreditation process last spring. At the end of it, the center received its five-year reaccreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which is no small feat; only 2 percent of child-care programs in the area have earned this national accreditation.
Opened in 1975 and in its current location in Buckham Hall C Wing since 1996, the center is licensed by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services for up to 82 infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Of the 75 little ones currently enrolled, about half are the children of Buffalo State students, faculty, and staff members. The remainder come from the community.
“Although child care can be very expensive, Buffalo State’s center provides a sliding scale for students based on income,” Doody said. “This means they have reasonably priced quality child care at a convenient location, which allows them to focus on their studies.”
The center also provides a healthful, balanced breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack, prepared in accordance with federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) guidelines.
“Buffalo State’s Child Care Center provides a sliding scale for students based on income. This means parents have reasonably priced quality child care at a convenient location, which allows them to focus on their studies.”
Kathy Doody, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Exceptional Education
The Child Care Center also serves as a learning lab of sorts. It works with departments and offices across campus to hire students majoring in elementary education, psychology, and social work.
“While we do placements and train new educators, we also learn from the students,” Herron said. “The industry is always changing, and best practices in preschools in particular are evolving. We are grateful for the partnership.”
She said she’s equally grateful for the students majoring in music and art who volunteer to give age-appropriate lessons to the children, and members of the Intercollegiate Athletics Department who host tutorials for the kids in everything from basketball to ice hockey.
The children are integrated into the campus in other ways, too—from walks in the multi-seat stroller to weekly visits to Butler Library, where Justin Crossfox, senior assistant librarian, reads to them, sometimes accompanied by puppets or craft projects.
“There is a richness to being located on the Buffalo State campus,” Herron said.
In addition, the center provides inclusive preschool classrooms for 4-year-olds with special needs as part of a partnership with Bornhava, an early childhood center for children with developmental disabilities located in Amherst, New York.
“Introducing all children to the inclusion model early on is so important,” Herron said.
Herron noted that the center’s long history means that some of the parents attended the center when they were children.
“They’re coming full circle,” she said. “We want to create the most positive environment possible and give them many opportunities throughout the year to explore the center with their kids.”
Photos by Jesse Steffan-Colucci, Buffalo State photographer.