This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.
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My name is Jennie Fitzkee. I am an Early Childhood Educator teaching the Full Day, multi-age class preschool class at Groton Community School in Groton, Mass. This my 33rd year of teaching preschool. Lucky me!
“Back in the day,” women were encouraged to become a nurse, secretary, or a teacher. Fortunately, I decided to become a teacher. I made a good career choice! I use the word “career” because teaching young children is far more than a job. It shapes the lives of children and educates parents. That is powerful; both a responsibility and a thrilling challenge.
I have my degree in Early Childhood Education, and I attend as many workshops and seminars as I can. If I’m excited, so are the children. I am an NAEYC member (my school is also an NAEYC accredited school), and I always enjoy the MA NAEYC conference in the spring. Continuing professional development keeps me in touch with other teachers and new ideas.
In the classroom, I pay attention to the little things, how children behave and respond to what is happening. My continuous personal goal is ‘to become one with a child’, to forget that self-imposed teacher/child wall and develop a close relationship of understanding so learning can happen.
A case in point: Andrew was a child I had not connected with. One day at rest time, we simultaneously made eye contact from across the room and smiled at each other. Everyone else was asleep. It was just us. That changed my life from being “a teacher who loves children” to “a teacher who makes a difference.”
Educating parents and families has to be part of that equation. When I began writing newsletters to families, I started including a paragraph about something that happened in the classroom that was meaningful. In that way I was helping parents. My writing grew, and parents learned much more about their children and became enthusiastic about education. Everyone was winning! This work continues to grow, and my stories from the classroom are now on my blog. You can read along at www.jenniefitzkee.com.
As a teacher, I learned early on how important reading aloud is to children. I began reading at least two picture books a day, and then I started chapter reading. Yes, I read quality chapter books like Charlotte’s Web and The Story of Doctor Dolittle every day before rest time. I knew that the number of words a child hears is directly attributed to academic success in all subject areas. And, I watched it happen every day in the classroom. When I heard Jim Trelease, author of the million-copy bestseller The Read-Aloud Handbook, speak at a teacher conference, I was thunderstruck. I wrote to tell him that I am constantly reading in my classroom, including chapter books. A year later he contacted me and visited my classroom! I am fortunate and proud to be featured in the latest edition of his book.
I want policy makers to know without a doubt that a child’s education in the early years sets the level of higher learning. The importance of educating early, with emphasis on reading and social skills, will make a difference. That’s what I do; and policymakers need to provide teachers with the resources to have a career, not a job, and therefore make a difference.