Cara Wicks-ortega

Contributing Faculty
Richard W. Riley College of Education and Human Sciences
M.S. Early Childhood Studies

Dr. Wicks-Ortega comes to Walden with 25+ years of experience in Child Development, Curriculum, and early childhood administration. Early in her career, she taught for Head Start as a Lead Teacher. In 1986, she began her public school career teaching kindergarten in an urban school district. Over the years, she moved from Kindergarten to developmental kindergarten, to 4-year-old preschool, and team-taught in a multiage 4-6-year-old setting. This multiage classroom was the State model for successful half-day, whole-day combined classroom. During this time, Wicks-Ortega received an Excellence in Teaching Award. Later, she became a Language Arts Curriculum Specialist designing new language arts curriculum for the school district, providing professional development, and mentoring teachers. During this time, she spent her summer’s substitute teaching in child care centers and teaching English as a Second Language to migrant workers in Kent County. Dr. Wicks-Ortega earned her Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Central Michigan University while raising five children and working full time. She was honored to be an adjunct instructor at Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University, and Ferris State University. This inspired her to pursue her Ph.D. at Michigan State University in Family and Child Ecology. In 2001, she became a tenure-track faculty member at Central Michigan University in early childhood education. In her second year, Dr. Wicks-Ortega received the Michigan Campus Compact Service-Learning Award, the highest award offered by this university for her work in service learning after 911. After her youngest child graduated high school, she and her husband adopted their 2-year-old nephew and decided to live out their dream by traveling to Alaska. Wicks-Ortega accepted a position as Graduate Early Childhood Coordinator for the University of Alaska Southeast. While there, she rewrote and updated the graduate program, a modified distance delivery degree. In 2008 she returned to Michigan to care for her ill father and to be a grandmother. Dr. Wicks-Ortega was selected as the Chair of the early childhood department for Ellis University, a startup program. Her duties included writing new curriculum/courses for the university, sending these through committees, and assisting the IT personnel to upload these courses into the online working shell. Also in 2008, she opened her daycare, Everyday Wonders Educare and in 2011 moved to a building serving 60 children. She enjoys interacting with all the children in her care, spoiling her six grandchildren, exploring Northern Michigan, and quilting seasonal display panels for her educare center.

Courses Taught

EDUC 6160 - Early Child Development

EDUC 6161 - Effective Programs & Practices

EDUC 6168 - Planning & Managing Early Childhood Programs


PhD, Michigan University

MA, Central Michigan University

BS, Central Michigan University

Public Service

Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children , Board of Directors - Lansing

Awards / Honors

Michigan Compact Service Learning Award, Central Michigan University, 2006


Wicks-ortega, C. J. (2004). Child development: Educating and working with young children and adolescents, Instructors Guide.

Wicks-ortega, C. J., Kromer, T. (2003). University Consortium to Advance Academic Service Learning in Michigan: From Seeds to Growth.

Wicks-ortega, C. J. (2002). Seeds of service learning. Academic Exchange Quarterly


Wicks-Ortega, C. J. (2016). Hands, Hands, Fingers, Thumb. Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children

Wicks-ortega, C. J. (2014). Hands, Hands, Fingers, Thumb. Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children

Wicks-Ortega, C. J. (2012). Big moves for small places. Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children