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Early Childhood Educator

Seon Chun-Burbank is passionate about her mission field.

Seon Chun-Burbank, chair of the early childhood education (ECE) program at Vanguard University, is helping churches and Christian day-care and preschool providers serve the very young.

“Early childhood education is my mission field,” says Chun-Burbank. “If you teach young children well with a good foundation of the Bible, and give them critical thinking skills, they will become good citizens in later life.”

At Vanguard, each ECE class integrates the Bible into its coursework. Chun-Burbank edited the special education concentration and recently added a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) concentration. She also developed a traditional kindergarten certificate program and created an infant/toddler course, which she believes will help church-based preschool programs and other private providers compete with the state of California as it begins to operate public preschools.

“This course prepares churches for the change that’s coming,” says Chun-Burbank, 50.

Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Chun-Burbank came from a Buddhist family, but suffered a negative spiritual experience in high school. She says demon spirits seemed to attack her at night as she wore an heirloom necklace bearing a Buddha pendant. She sensed God’s protection and during college attended a Sunday service at a Methodist church, where she wept during worship time.

“I just knew that was the God I was looking for,” she says.

She was baptized in water the next Easter. After finishing college and teaching preschool in South Korea and Singapore, she came to the U.S. in 1998 to earn her master’s degree and doctorate. Chun-Burbank served as program chair at the University of Alaska Southeast, in Juneau, then came to Pasadena’s Pacific Oaks College, which is well known in the field of early childhood education.

After consulting for the Center for Constructive Education, Chun-Burbank earned a master’s degree in public administration. Vanguard University hired her in 2015.

“Ninety percent of human brain development is between birth and age five,” Chun-Burbank says. “It’s a very critical time in human development. A child needs to have a good education, a good environment, and good interactions.”

Michelle L. Lynam, 48, an online Vanguard student, runs a large family day care and private preschool out of her home in Bakersfield. She calls her relationship with Chun-Burbank “life-changing.”

“Dr. Chun-Burbank has been a huge help,” Lynam says. “Anytime I have an issue, I reach out to her. The classes at Vanguard have been very good.”

The 18-year day-care veteran started her business unintentionally, by watching the children of friends and relatives along with her own. She took professional development courses, then some college courses, and eventually needed more-specialized classes from a larger university, having never formally studied ECE.

When Lynam inquired about Vanguard, Chun-Burbank offered to come by her house for a short presentation on the way to a larger orientation at a church in Bakersfield. Today, Lynam is graduating with her bachelor’s degree in ECE from Vanguard’s professional studies department. She spearheads a group of more than 150 local day-care providers who share professional and personal support.

“We get together monthly and talk about licensing issues or behavior problems,” she says. “For us, this is not a job; it’s our lifestyle. Families matter. We invest our lives in them.”

Chun-Burbank also brought Lynam into the larger ECE community, taking her to a conference of the California Association for the Education of Young Children, a chapter of the largest professional ECE organization in the world. Chun-Burbank served two years on the executive board and four years on the regular board.

She has served as a board member for the Association for Constructivist Teaching, and is a peer reviewer for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing for ECE regarding teacher performance expectations and assessment.

A Christian voice is needed in ECE settings, according to Chun-Burbank, who also has been a member of the Orange County Child Care and Development Planning Council.

For Lynam, the mentorship from Chun-Burbank has led her to start a master’s degree program with the goal of teaching at the college level one day.

“God put Vanguard in my path,” she says. “I believe all day-care providers should have ECE training. It makes you a better provider when you know the developmental needs of the children.”

PHOTO: Michelle Lynam (left) says Seon Chun-Burbank has been a great help regarding early childhood education.

Joel Kilpatrick

Joel Kilpatrick is a writer living in Southern California who has authored or ghostwritten dozens of books. Kilpatrick, who served as associate editor of the Pentecostal Evangel in the 1990s, is a credentialed Assemblies of God minister.