This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.
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My name is Kristen Allen, and I am a preschool teacher at the Goddard School in Bellingham. I have been in the field since 1985, when my work-study job at UMASS/Boston was in the campus child care center. At the time, I was studying geography, and I hoped to teach high school environmental science and spend my summers leading canoe trips. After that first exposure to toddlers, though, I was hooked!
I have worked in almost every aspect of the field — in classrooms; running my own licensed family child care program when my children were young; training women to operate their own licensed family child care businesses; managing a home-visiting program for young mothers; providing mentoring, coaching, and training to early childhood professionals at workshops and conferences nationwide; coordinating USDA child and adult care food programs; and working on early childhood policy issues.
In each role, I have been committed to giving our community’s children the best possible start in life. Through my varied experiences, I learned that the key to positive child outcomes is ensuring both high-quality child care and education programs for children, and strong health, mental health, and social service supports for families. I have come to respect the role that data and assessment play in making continuous improvement in programs and in my own professional practices. I have become a zealot for professional development because better educated and trained colleagues do better work for our children.
I have been blessed to witness countless “Aha! Moments” from children, parents, and even colleagues. It never gets old for me. Just this week, several of my students discovered that the bulbs we planted this past fall have sprouted. Now, every day, they rush to the garden to see if there is any new growth. They made some pretty sophisticated predictions about what will happen to them after they get buried in a late season snowstorm. These discoveries tickle me every time. Similarly, when parents proudly tell me about their children’s accomplishments or about their own feelings of competency as parents, I am delighted. When a teacher, family child care provider, home visitor, or other colleague gets excited about a technique or strategy they have learned, I get excited, too. As the saying goes, “A rising tide raises all ships.” We are all better for each improvement in the field.
Thanks to the Region 2 Educator and Provider Support Partnership, I have been able to participate in Quinsigamond Community College’s Leadership in Early Childhood certificate program and earn graduate credits towards my master’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Worcester State University. I am looking forward to completing my degree next May, and I am already beginning to look at doctoral programs.
The experiences I am having as a student have extended far beyond coursework. This past February, I was encouraged by one of my professors, Amy O’Leary, to travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the NAEYC Public Policy Forum, advocating for good early childhood policy and funding with federal legislators. It was incredibly powerful to learn about the lawmaking and federal budget process. To then put that new knowledge to work, speaking to legislative aides and senators about the critical importance early childhood education plays in our country—by giving our children what they need to succeed, by allowing parents to work, by creating thousands of jobs nationwide—was empowering, and I plan to continue doing advocacy work.