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“Despite the low pay, teachers who are in charge of classrooms still have to meet certain state education requirements. Nonetheless, child care is sometimes thought of as just baby sitting. But it’s much more than that, said Clare Higgins, executive director of Community Action Pioneer Valley, which runs Head Start and early learning programs.

“ ‘Children develop in a web of relationships, both the people that are in their family and the people who care for them right outside the family,’ Higgins said.

“Children learn and thrive when they feel safe with those adults and trust them to be there, she said.

“ ‘Because the pay is so low, grown ups are leaving and kids [are] having attachments broken over and over again,’ Higgins said. ‘And, quite frankly, so are those adults. You know, people are so sad when they have to leave the program, but they can’t afford to stay.’

*   *   *

“Rebekah Dutkiewicz was a preschool teacher for about 10 years. She loved it.

“ ‘It was just something that felt very natural, professionally and very fulfilling professionally,’ Dutkiewicz said.

“But after about a decade, in May last year, she left. She had worked at a private preschool, Fort Hill in Northampton, where she earned a salary with benefits. But with no summers off and working 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, she struggled being available to her own three children.

“ ‘Ultimately, it became really important for me to commit to a job that allowed me to have a bit more balance in my life and more money. I mean, to be frank, just more money,’ Dutkiewicz said.

“Last fall, she got a new job as a public school kindergarten teacher, with summers off — earning $10,000 more.”
 

“Hiring crisis in child care: ‘We’re stuck in a market that’s broken’ ” by Nancy Eve Cohen, New England Public Media, October 19, 2021

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Amy O'Leary and Ellis

Screenshot: Ellis Early Learning’s LinkedIn page

 

Behind every good award, there’s a good story about people working for change.

This story is about early childhood programs, Amy O’Leary, an award, and all the work that is being done to revolutionize the experiences very young children have in Massachusetts.

We’ll start with the award. 

Congratulations to Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, for winning the 2021 Ellis Early Learning (S)Hero Award. She’ll be honored at the Ellis Annual Benefit Event, which will be held virtually on Thursday, October 28, 2021. 

“This is a brand new award that was inspired by Amy herself,” Lauren Cook, the CEO of Ellis Early Learning Center explains. “We wanted to shine a light on how much she does for the field, for adults and children alike.”

Patti Keenan, Ellis’ vice president of Advancement, Community and Equity, says, “I have been struck by how much the power of advocacy makes our work possible.” 

Keenan also praises Amy’s prodigious outreach and education work, especially during the pandemic when Amy and the Strategies team have been hosting “the 9:30 call,” a daily Zoom meeting for the field that features guest speakers, policy updates, and chances for early education professionals to connect with each other. 

And Cook adds, “Amy is so important to the sector, and so important to the history of Ellis.”  (more…)

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Policymakers need to hear from experts.

That’s why Strategies for Children has created a Speakers’ Bureau, a group of 15 early educators who can talk to the media or testify at the State House.

These early educators were nominated by partner organizations. They represent the racial and geographic diversity of the field as well as the different settings where early educators work. And the early educators participated in a seven-session training program that was held on Zoom and covered:

• knowing your “why”

• Advocacy 101

• equity in early education

• public speaking

• working with legislators

• talking to the media, and

• a session for reflection

Funding was generously provided by the W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation.

A key goal of the bureau is to unite early educators into an advocacy community. (more…)

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principles photo

Photo: Yan Krukov from Pexels

What’s the best way to invest in early education and care?

State advocates have come up with nine guiding principles for policy leaders.

These policies are “designed to help create one mixed delivery system of care that is equitable and inclusive of all providers including family child care, public and private child care centers, Head Start, and public schools,” The Alliance for Early Success explains on its website where the nine principles are listed.

These principles also:

• focus on family choice and preferences

• ensure access to quality programs for all families

• create supply that can meet demand, and

• respond to communities’ needs and values

The nine principles are:

make child care affordable
Families living at or below the poverty level would not have to pay a fee for child care. And no family would pay more than 7 percent of their income.

fund the real cost of care
Child care providers should receive government funding that is based on the actual, full costs of providing high-quality care.

enact reforms and policies that are equitable
Equitable reforms and policies should benefit all families and invest additional resources in “communities that have been traditionally underserved.” (more…)

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Vanessa Pashkoff

Vanessa Pashkoff

Vanessa Pashkoff spent time in high school and college working as a nanny. And she was always inspired by “the spark of children and wonder,” she says. But as a student in McMaster University, in Canada, where she’s from, she earned a degree in political science. 

“I was convinced I was going to be a social worker.” 

A friend, however, was going to teach in Korea, and that inspired Pashkoff to look into teaching abroad. She applied to a program, got accepted, took a crash course in teaching English as a second language and spent a year teaching a preschool class in Japan. 

“I lived in Kobe,” Pashkoff recalls, “and I loved it. It was amazing to help people learn and to see another environment and the cultural differences. It really was what I was looking for without knowing it.” 

“I created some incredible relationships with families, and I am still in touch with them to this day.” 

While she was in Japan, Pashkoff decided to apply to Brock University in Ontario, Canada, so she could earn a degree in education. 

“It was the kind of thing where everyone else seemed to know that I was going to end up being an educator or a teacher, and I just never wanted to admit it,” she says.  (more…)

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kristina pic

Kristina DiMaria

“My mother was the secretary of the K-to-4 principal at the Malden public schools, so I was always around education,” Kristina DiMaria says of her childhood. “It was amazing. My mother knew the children, their families, their grandparents on a first name basis. And she wouldn’t leave for the day until the last child left.” 

“But what really made me an early educator was when I was at Pope John for high school. I had to do community service my senior year, so I volunteered in the kindergarten classroom.” 

DiMaria fell in love with the volunteer job, but at age 18, she didn’t think she could make a career out of working with children. 

So DiMaria went to Bay State College and earned a two-year degree in fashion merchandising. But she also kept her connection to her mother’s school, volunteering and working in summer programs. And she continued her own education, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she majored in English, minored in psychology, and took several early education classes.

Earning this degree was bittersweet, a personal achievement and something DiMaria did to honor her father who had passed away, but always emphasized the importance of going to college. 

Eventually, DiMaria took a job as a kindergarten teacher at a private school, Independence Route. The curriculum included STEM activities and “purposeful play.” 

“It became my passion, and I learned so much about teaching.”  (more…)

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image001  
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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Marcela Simpson

Photo courtesy of Marcela Simpson

All Marcela Simpson wanted was a part-time job to carry her through to graduation. She was living in her native country of Honduras and majoring in business administration at UNITEC, the Central American Technological University.

Simpson applied for a position at a school called La Estancia, a renown bilingual school where she met the school’s director, Ana Aviles, who assigned Simpson to be a lead teacher in a preschool classroom.

“That’s where it all started. I learned that I loved children,” explains Simpson.

Because her grandfather insisted, Simpson completed her Business Administration degree and came to the United States to get her master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she studied with George Forman, coauthor of The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education.

Simpson went on to work at the Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development in Vermont, an early education program that provides inclusive classes for both typically developing children and for children with special needs and rights. In this position, she worked with teachers, assistant teachers, and paraprofessionals providing them with educational resources and sharing opportunities for professional development.

“Based on this experience, I felt the need to learn more about adult learning,” Simpson recalls, “and that guided me to a whole different place.” She contacted the local Resource and Referral Agency in Western Massachusetts and they connected her to provide professional development and coaching opportunities. She also joined the Institute for Professional Education, where she learned more about adult learning theories and principles.

(more…)

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pexels-alexandr-podvalny-3036405

Photo: Alexandr Podvalny from Pexels

Across the country, preschool directors are all saying the same thing: It is incredibly hard to hire early educators.

One of countless examples is the Granite Start Early Learning Center in Nashua, N.H.

This is where “owner Joyce Goodwin said the phone hardly stops ringing as families hunt desperately for child care,” the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.

Goodwin “gets calls every day from parents looking for a place to put their children as they return to work, and weekend tours of the center are reliably full.” She could accept another 10 or 12 children, “but only if she could hire three more teachers.”

Despite placing want ads, Goodwin can’t find candidates. She’s up against the same problem as other directors, salaries in child care are “notoriously” low.

“Over the past year, hundreds of trained child care workers have left the field in search of higher-paying work and jobs that feel less dangerous in a pandemic,” the Union Leader says.

Early Learning NH conducted a workforce survey of “196 business owners, who together own about 40% of the 700 licensed day cares in the state,” and found similar circumstances. 

“Those owners could accommodate almost 2,300 more children day care — if only they could hire enough staff,” specifically 643 more staff members.

(more…)

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 
The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee has released its FY ’22 budget.

It’s a $47.6 billion budget proposal, that’s slightly higher, the Gloucester Daily Times reports, than the $45.6 billion budget that Governor Charlie Baker released in January.

“The House budget proposal calls for a 2.6% spending increase from fiscal 2021 and expects the state to collect $30.1 billion in tax revenue (the revenue drops to $24.3 billion after factoring in payments to the pension fund, MBTA and state reserves),” according to MassLive.com.

For early education and care, the House’s proposed budget specifics include:

• $358.9 million to fund child care for children served by the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Transitional Assistance

• $298.7 million in child care funds to support income-eligible families

• $20 million for a salary reserve to increase rates for center-based early education

• $15 million for Head Start

• $12 million for child care resource and referral agencies

• $5 million for pre-school expansion efforts

• $5 million for professional development opportunities, and

• $2.5 million for the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Grant (more…)

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