She chose Mercer because of its convenience and proximity to her house. “I had four children at the time and was also juggling work. Mercer’s schedule was the most flexible for what I needed at that time in my life,” she said.
She remembers two MCCC professors who were very influential, one who taught English and another who taught African American Studies. According to Werner, both of them challenged her to think and write in new ways. “They were very enthusiastic educators who made learning fun and interesting,” she said.
Werner graduated from Mercer in 1984 with an associate degree in Business. That same year she was hired by Xerox and also got remarried, adding three of her husband’s children to the growing family. “There were lots of wonderful changes in my life that year,” she said. Starting out at Xerox as the coordinator for the company car program, she was later promoted to assistant to the president of sales.
A few years later, Werner decided to expand the family even further by adopting two children. She and her husband welcomed a baby girl named Veronica and a boy named Christopher. Soon after, she began to think about how she could incorporate her motherly instincts into her career. “I realized my passion for helping children could translate to a career in education.”
After taking some additional classes related to childhood education at Mercer in 1998, Werner enrolled at Rider University to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, which she earned in 2002.
While in school, Werner was hired as a group teacher at Better Beginnings. She notes that the non-profit center, which provides affordable, quality child care for working parents in a multi-cultural, bilingual setting, proved the perfect setting for her.
After working as a teacher for eight years, Werner was promoted to assistant director of the program in 2009. “I enjoy everything about my job,” Werner said. From steering the school through its accreditation process, to helping train teachers to be the best at their jobs, Werner is consistently finding ways to enhance youngsters’ formative educational experiences.
“I like knowing what we do makes a difference in the lives of children,” Werner said. “I believe everything you need to know you learn in early childhood. Students need the best foundation when they’re young in order to continue on the right path through the rest of their lives.”
Today, Werner continues to emphasize the importance of education to her family, which has grown to include 28 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Along with working at the center, she also volunteers as a Sunday school teacher and vacation bible school coordinator at St. James AME Church in Hightstown and serves as a staff minister.
Several members of Werner’s family have followed her example by taking classes at the college, including her husband and two daughters. Her youngest daughter, Veronica, now 23, is currently studying for a Liberal Arts degree at the college, and also working as a student intern in development and alumni relations.
Better Beginnings is a nonprofit serving the local community with pre-school programs and after-school care. The organization welcomes donations including paper and crafts goods and gently used toys. For more information, visit the school's website.