Standards for High-Quality Care, Part 6: Teachers
Tanya LaChapelle has worked in the early childhood education field for 20 years, including experience in elementary school settings, with Head Start, teaching infants, toddlers and preschoolers, and engaging in community organizations such as her current role as a steering committee member of the Chittenden County Building Bright Futures Council. She is currently the executive director/teacher and a parent at Robin’s Nest Children’s Center, a 5-star program in Burlington’s Old North End.
Program Standard (as defined by the National Association for the Education of Young Children): The program employs and supports a staff with educational qualifications, knowledge and professional commitment necessary to promote children’s learning and development. Teachers with specific preparation, knowledge and skills in child development and early childhood education are more likely to provide positive interactions, richer language experiences and quality learning environments.
Child care providers work incredibly hard to provide Vermont's children with nurturing environments while their parents are working. The important work they do helps to ensure that young children build the strong foundation they need for future success in relationships, school and life. Teaching in an early childhood setting is a huge responsibility and it requires specialized skills.
Skilled teachers facilitate quality learning environments filled with positive experiences and rich language opportunities through intentional practice that guides individualized instructional goals. Early learning teachers must appreciate the uniqueness of each child while building relationships that empower children to reach their full potential. An early care and learning program teacher must also provide emotionally nurturing experiences. Among daily skill development are abounding hugs, feedings, diapering, dressing and cleaning. These motivated professionals wear many hats: they are nurturers, parent educators, artists, coaches, nutritionists, janitors, nurses and cooks.
For early childhood teachers to reach their full potential, they need supportive programs with effective leadership. I have always appreciated the professional support embedded in my job at Robin’s Nest. I was hired with an elementary education degree and license and then given the support necessary—funds, time, guidance and encouragement—to achieve my early educator endorsement. When I accepted the director position, I was mentored by an exceptional leader and had the full support of the Robin’s Nest community. The people here and the center’s solid policies are always behind me, and that is a gift.
Robin’s Nest’s philosophy is to promote excellence in the field. We strive to provide the wages, benefits and ongoing development that will recruit and retain great people. We strategically hire educated, trained teachers that are the right fit. We consistently train, re-train and reflect on practice. Training and orientation cross a spectrum of skills including diapering, meal preparation, emergency preparedness, parent relations, effective communication and more.
At the heart of practice is curriculum. Our curriculum guide is based on our own philosophy, which incorporates many high-quality and evidence-based standards. Teachers use the guide as a living document. They are regularly thinking, brainstorming, and talking as a team to develop the best daily practice. To energize their daily efficacy and continually develop, we constantly seek opportunities for growth. Ongoing professional development is linked to individual goals, catered to staff-generated objectives, developed from child and family needs, or is regulation-driven. It can be in the form of workshops, conferences, activities or courses. Our program sponsors all workshops and conferences. In addition, we have an endowment fund to help toward the cost of higher education credits. These practices ensure mentoring and support along the way as teachers and staff climb the professional ladder.
As an early learning administrator I know that many factors are indicative of a setting where children and families thrive; such as regulatory compliance, community engagement, staff qualifications and program practices. Each of these indicators are driven by the professionals working in the program because, in the end, quality teachers are the ones creating quality care and learning.
This is part 6 in a series of 10 monthly articles written by early-childhood experts and detailing standards of high-quality child care. Click here to read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 7, part 8, part 9 and part 10.
by Tanya LaChapelle, executive director/teacher at Robin’s Nest Children’s Center, Burlington, VT