This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.
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My Name is Nicole Penney, and I became an educator of young children to make a difference, to build confidence through experiences, and to make known my belief that all children can learn. When I was growing up, my mother had a childcare center that sparked my love for teaching.
I have gone on to earn my Associates and Bachelors degree in Early Education and Care as well as Sociology. I’ve been teaching at Community Day Learning Center in Lawrence, Mass., for over two years, and every day I have learned more about myself and about what it takes to be a great teacher.
I believe that children learn from a wide variety of experiences, through exploration, and through play. Children have different ways of learning and need different kinds of support to succeed. I embrace these children and find ways to encourage them to be themselves and learn in a fun and positive environment. It is important to care for them, love them, and give them every opportunity to discover the world around them. This can be done through creative activities, engaging projects, and hands-on experiences.
In my classroom, we are a family. One of our most positive social interactions is when we have a family-style lunch. We all sit together and have positive conversations, try new foods, and learn something new about each other.
It is also important to be professional when dealing with children and families: by welcoming them into the classroom, respecting their wishes and expectations, and building trust. Once there is trust, a relationship is formed. Then I can build a strong line of communication, and success will undoubtedly occur. In a low-income community such as ours, I feel an important piece of teaching is helping parents to be more of a part of their child’s learning.
Policymakers should know that early education is the jumpstart for all young children. Children are genuinely curious, loving, and passionate about learning, which enables them to learn through their experiences. Teachers are the roots that help children grow and sprout into smart and confident students who love school, have a positive outlook on their community, and take pride in their accomplishments, no matter how small.
Funding is important. It means we can have the materials it takes to support a child’s individual needs. I would love to see more music, art, and gym classes offered to low-income communities.
Not only is funding important for the children, but for teachers as well. As an educator, this is not just a job, but a lifelong career. I would like to see more funding for extracurricular activities and higher wages as well as more trainings and professional development for teachers. Learning Spanish would be a great asset to me when building a positive relationship with non-English speaking families.
Every day is a new learning experience for me and the children in my care. I am proud to be an educator of young children because I’m making a difference in a child’s life, and every moment is a teachable moment.