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This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts. This one was written by Lisa Plotkin.

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Lisa Plotkin

Lisa Plotkin

When I graduated high school, I spent the summer as a preschool camp counselor. I came home every afternoon exhausted and took a nap. “Childcare – definitely NOT for me,” I said.

In college, I pursued architecture and then business. My first job out of college was managing an architectural office. I left that job to re-calibrate and found myself surrounded by children again as a substitute then a classroom teacher at the JCC preschool in Washington, DC. Following this role, I moved to my hometown Richmond, Virginia, where my path crossed a year later with a little boy waiting for his sister’s dance class to end as I was waiting for my exercise class to begin. It was 2007.

We’ve all heard about those “light bulb moments,” right? I had one. Something in his conversation with me, how easy it was for us to chat, made it a moment I’d always remember. A joyful readiness hit me: I wanted to pursue a degree in the field of early childhood. So, I moved to Boston and earned my Master of Early Childhood Education at Lesley University. (more…)

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“Sometimes, this sexism is overt. A recent New York Times article about early childhood workers struggling to make ends meet quoted a child care worker who was told… [by] a state legislator that, ‘You don’t get into this for money, you’re paid in love.’ Other advocates have told me of policymakers who believe that early childhood educators don’t need more money because they aren’t ‘breadwinners’ – a perception that data disputes.”

“Confront Sexism in Child Care: We need to talk about how sexism contributes to a lack of prestige and low pay for ‘women’s work,’” by Sara Mead, U.S. News & World Report, November 17, 2016

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This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.

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Jennie Fitzkee

Jennie Fitzkee

 

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. (more…)

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“ ‘We believe that preschool is an integral part of the public school system and public school should be universally available because every child can benefit from it,’ said Josh Wallack, Deputy Chancellor of New York City’s Department of Education. ‘Therefore, preschool should be universal.’ ”

“ ‘Trying to do something this quickly presents a lot of challenges,’ Wallack said. But so far, he said, the push for universal preschool here has proven to be ‘a great example of what a municipal government can do when focused on a really ambitious goal.’ ”

“ ‘I feel like children are learning so much more now,’ said [Lauren] Kendall, who was inspired to leave a communications job at Lehman Brothers, the now-defunct investment bank, and become a teacher after Sept. 11, 2001. When she got her first preschool classroom in 2003 though, she said she had to write her own curriculum and figure out what her kids needed.

“Now, Kendall gets support from the district, including a curriculum that helps her plan classroom activities and personal coaching that helps her understand how to best engage young learners.”

“ ‘What’s perplexing to me is: How come we haven’t moved?’ [Marcy Whitebook] said. ‘There were all these excuses you could make 40 years ago about why we were stuck. But now, there’s no excuse.’ ”

“What it will take to create quality preschool for all,” by Lillian Mongeau, The Hechinger Report, via PBS NewsHour, August 16, 2016

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This past spring at an Educare Learning Network Meeting, one panel focused on getting men involved in early education. The vast majority of early educators are female – as high as 98% according to the recent national report “Transforming the Workforce.”

“Studies find that children achieve more when they have both female and male role models. Yet most teachers, especially in early childhood education, are women,” an Educare article explains.

The issue is important for Educare — a national system of high-quality, comprehensive, early education schools — because Educare is determined to use every tool it can to level the playing field for young children living in poverty.

The panel on men and early education was moderated by Steve White, senior director of school leadership for Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers, which is Educare Atlanta’s parent organization.

“When kids learn nurturing at a young age it makes a difference,” White says in the article. “So how impactful is it for this male teacher to show it? You can’t put a price on it.”  (more…)

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Image: Taly Foundation website

 

Launched last year in Framingham, Mass., the Taly Foundation is a new philanthropic effort that’s devoted to early education. The foundation got its start when two parents faced the stark reality of how much money matters, even in pre-K.

Up until Jill Dixon and her husband Phil began looking for preschool programs for their own children, they “had been blissfully unaware of the complexities associated with early childhood education and access to a quality preschool program,” Jill Dixon told us in a recent interview.

Once they began to look, the Dixons learned what for them were “new concepts” such as lottery systems and lack of slots for children — the same scarcity that new crops of parents discover every year as they consider preschool options.

After the Dixons enrolled their son in a local, public preschool, “it dawned on us that it was so expensive that there may be a time when parents are unable to afford that for their children even though they may want to for their child.”

“So we asked the director, ‘is there ever a time when families can’t afford to put their children in preschool?’ And she said, ‘Oh yeah, honey, every year for the 28 years that I’ve been here.’  (more…)

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This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.

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JennieMy name is Jennie Antunes, and I have worked in the early education field for 30 years. This past October marked my 29th year with NorthStar Learning Centers in New Bedford, Mass. I am presently a lead teacher in one of our toddler/preschool classrooms. I also have the responsibility of acting as designated administrator when the center director is out of the building.

Through the help of a scholarship program, I earned my bachelor’s degree in 2014. Even though I had been doing this work for so long, there was so much more I wanted to learn to strengthen my teaching. I take great pride in my accomplishments, proving to myself that I could work full time as well as attend school full time.

However, early educators’ pay continues to be a challenge. The goal to have teachers become better educated to better serve children and their families is fantastic and important. Guiding the development and learning of young minds is incredibly difficult and highly skilled work.  (more…)

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