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Early education and care providers are in the middle of several crises. There’s the pandemic. There’s the shrinking workforce. And there’s the pandemic-related mental health crisis that’s playing out in children’s lives.

To stabilize and strengthen the field, the Department of Early Education (EEC) is building a new professional infrastructure. These initiatives are part of the strategic action plan, EEC’s guiding vision for 2020-2025.

Earlier this month, EEC’s Advisory Council and its Workforce Council held a joint meeting to discuss a range of workforce issues and solutions.

“We wanted to get some insights on some of the very specific initiatives that are both being conceptualized at the moment as well as [those that] are ready to start launching,” EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy said in her introduction. The goal is to build “the systems that we need to fuel our growth and recovery.”

The topics on the meeting’s agenda were:

• Status of EEC Workforce

• Launch of a Professional Registry

• Educator Credentialing, and

• EEC Professional Pathways

Here’s a summary of what was discussed. (more…)

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In a recent exhibition, the teachers at Charlestown Nursery School (CNS) shared the important lessons they’ve learned from leaving their building and running their preschool program outdoors in their Boston neighborhood.

The move to the great urban outdoors occurred last fall in the middle of the pandemic. Every morning staff packed supplies into red wagons and pulled the wagons to a local park that served as a classroom. Children arrived in masks and weather appropriate clothing. Being outside helped mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

How did it go?

The teachers say it was the best year ever.
 
Outdoor Exhibition
To heighten their point, they put together the exhibition — “The Qualities of High Quality: Why Reimagining School Matters Now More than Ever” – to engage policymakers in a discussion about access, quality, and how to optimize young children’s learning experiences. (more…)

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Rosanna Acosta. Photo courtesy of Rosanna Acosta.

 

My name is Rosanna Acosta. I work in Springfield, Mass., as an early childhood educator in my own home daycare, Little Star Daycare. I have been in the field for four years.

The important part of my work is providing the foundational principles of education for young children in a safe and nurturing environment where they can grow and learn. I encourage parents and families to continue this education at home and to nurture their children to support their growth and development.

As an educator, I am always proud when I see my students grow each and every day. One of my favorite memories is when I went grocery shopping once and was hugged by one of my past students who said how much they’ve missed me. The parents told me that even after leaving my program, their child would talk about me and the things they learned and did. This showed me that my work really has an impact on the lives of my students. Regardless of the time that has passed, their early education experiences stick with them as they get older.

My own education started in the Dominican Republic, where I went to elementary and middle school. My family migrated to the United States, where I earned my GED. In 2020, I decided to go back to school, and now I am continuing my education at Springfield Technical Community College, where I am working on earning my CDA (Child Development Associate) certification as well as an associate degree in Early Education Childhood Development. I am also participating in a professional development program. We meet regularly every two months to discuss new activities and developments. (more…)

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“The most important part is to have the students become more aware of the profession that they’ve chosen,” Tracey Williams says of teaching Introduction to Early Childhood Education at Cambridge College. Williams, a Boston Public School special education teacher, is one of Cambridge College’s senior professors.

“A lot of my students have early childcare positions and jobs where they get a lot of practice, but they don’t know the theory behind what they’re doing.”

So Williams, who has had a long career in early education and K-12 special education, teaches her students about Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist, and Lev Vygotsky, the Russian psychologist, both of whom studied child development as well as about Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator.

“We talk about the importance of play. We talk about the history of Head Start, NAEYC and how state standards evolved. We talk about family engagement, inclusion, and working with kids who have disabilities. We talk about how early education started, and we look at the impact of the industrial revolution and John Dewey,” an education reformer. 

“Because we talk so much about the early history of child care, I wanted to bring students forward into the present, so I asked them to research early educators of color.

“At Cambridge College our students are very diverse, and I want them to understand that theory doesn’t just stop. Theories evolve and education evolves, and both spread into new areas of education. Also, we had discussed a lot of people who were not of color, and I wanted them to learn about people who were.” (more…)

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This is a guest blog by Strategies for Children intern Ryan Telingator. Ryan is entering his senior year at Bowdoin College. 

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Ryan Telingator

 

These past 10 weeks with Strategies for Children have been among the most fulfilling of my professional career. As a Government & Legal Studies and Education Coordinate major at Bowdoin College, I have always been interested in working in education policy and advocacy – the field where my interests and my coursework in political science, policy, and education intersect.

Before this summer, however, my conceptualization of this intersection was purely theoretical because my main experiences had been teaching and curriculum development.

Strategies for Children has introduced me to policy, advocacy, and governance in an immediate and accelerated way. On my first day at work in late May, Massachusetts was in the midst of providing emergency child care, and the number of coronavirus cases had climbed past 90,000, so I quickly began to learn about the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the nuances within Massachusetts’ child care sector. I also learned about the differences between family child care providers and center-based programs, and about how the Massachusetts child care field operated both pre-COVID and during COVID.

Every morning at 9:30, there were daily advocate check-ins on Zoom that added to my education. I had the unique and valuable opportunity to hear from experts with decades of experience. I learned a lot – from the intricate strategizing required to staff child care classrooms based on licensing ratios and COVID-informed health and safety protocols to the latest trauma-informed practices being used by early childhood educators – and I have continued to learn throughout my internship through osmosis. (more…)

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“We’re all affected by the barriers to affordable, quality child care,” Arthur Buckland, the interim director of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, said earlier this month at a panel discussion on child care policy.

The event was a great overview of the current state of early education and care in Massachusetts, with insights on policy, advocacy, parents’ needs, and business benefits.

“The panel explored efforts to strengthen access to affordable care at the local and state level, how the lack of child care impacts the Commonwealth’s workforce, economy, and family security, and the importance of building a talent pipeline,” the institute says on its website.

The moderator of the panel was Lauren Birchfield Kennedy, co-founder of Neighborhood Villages, a nonprofit organization that works “to improve access to affordable, high-quality child care and early education.”

The panel speakers were: (more…)

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The East Boston Social Centers recently interviewed Representative Adrian Madaro (D-Boston). Here’s an excerpt.

“As an undergraduate, you majored in child development. What would ideal system of early childhood supports look like and how can organizations like the Social Centers help get there?”

“We know that everything starts young. Children’s brains are developing, they’re formulating thoughts and learning from day one so it’s important that we invest as early as possible in the development of children and that’s exactly what the Social Centers does. The earlier you invest in a young person, the positive outcomes that can come from that increase dramatically. The sooner we can intervene and the sooner we can start to get at those children, the better for the long term.”

And here’s a relevant personal note from Madaro’s bio:

“Adrian and his wife Ariel met as undergraduate students at Tufts University in a child development class taught by the same professor who would officiate their wedding seven years later.”

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“Here we are growing a team at Zion Education Center with teachers with certificates to teach… and I couldn’t speak the language. And that’s why I went back and obtained my doctorate in instructional management and educational leadership, because I felt that in order for me to grow my team, grow my staff, and to better serve the families within our community, which are low-income, economically disadvantaged families, I needed to know what was happening at every level — local, county, state, federal — that would invest in our kids.

“And so having that team, a great team, in place, [with the] same mission, and same focus to shape the lives of those children and pull them out of poverty, pull their families out of poverty, through early childhood education with a diverse workforce — both caucasian and African-American females, some with Asian descent, and, yes, we have some male representation, too — we needed our workforce to look like, or my team to look like the children that we serve. And that’s how we best identify with them.”

 

April Torrence, founder and executive director of the Zion Education Center, at New America’s event, Exploring Diversity in the Early Care & Education Workforce, May 2, 2019

Torrence was part of a panel discussion that also included:

Maria Martinez, teacher, Greenbelt Children’s Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Maria Potts, co-manager and teacher, Kids World Child Care, Fairfax, Va., and,

Danny Vasquez, lead teacher, ACCA Child Development Center, Annandale, Va.

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Presidential Seminar panelists. Front row: Zaina Cahill and Rachel Giannini. Back row: Llanet Montoya, Mary Graham, and Amy O’Leary.

 

Earlier this month at the NAEYC Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., the Presidential Seminar featured a panel discussion about advocacy with both seasoned advocates and newer advocates who are just finding their advocacy voices.

“To achieve universally accessible, high-early early education and care in our country, we need to build a broad-based movement that is organized, guided and supported by a diverse leadership that has as its core the voices of those who directly work with children and families,” the panel’s description explains, adding that to make a difference for children, families, and the field, early educators should understand that, “We are the ones we have been waiting for – we need to be the change we want to see in the world!”

The panel was planned and moderated by Amy O’Leary, NAEYC’s president and the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All campaign.

The panel discussion was also featured in the Education Dive article, “Panelists stress need for educators to play dual role as pre-K policy advocates.” (more…)

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A Montessori student and Janet Begin

 

“Leading the Way,” is a series featuring the next generation of leaders in the field of early education and care.

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Janet Begin was a computer engineer for ten years. She worked at AT&T Bell Labs.

“I always knew I wanted to go into education,” Begin, a Haverhill resident, says. “But I knew I liked computers, and I was good at that, so I started there because it was more profitable than education. That’s the sad reality.”

Eventually her company offered a buyout — and tuition benefits. Begin took both and went back to school. She earned a master’s degree in education from Lesley University. She became a substitute teacher in Haverhill where she lived. And she started looking for a preschool program for her daughter.

“In my search, I found a Montessori school, and basically it changed my world,” Begin said. (more…)

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