A record number of people—more than 100—attended the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation‘s fifth annual Leadership Forum on Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice on Saturday, May 19.
The day celebrated graduates of the leadership institute’s early educator leadership programs, provided a platform for ECE practitioners to discuss leadership for change and innovation in the field, and facilitated dialogue about advancing leadership pathways in early education and care in Massachusetts.
Executive Director Anne Douglass noted in her welcoming remarks that ECE providers have historically been overlooked when it comes to driving change in the field despite the fact that they are the experts who do the work every day.
“Too often early childhood educators are thought of as objects of change, rather than change agents,” said Douglass, an associate professor and program director for the bachelor’s degree and post masters certificate programs in early care and education in UMass Boston’s College of Education and Human Development.
College of Education and Human Development Dean Joseph Berger praised the leadership institute’s work for reflecting the university’s core mission as a public research institution and for working to create opportunity for “lifelong learners” as well as traditional college students.
In his keynote address, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago, below, middle, with Berger at right, called early education “a crucial pillar” in building a true system of public higher education in the commonwealth.
“I’m counting on the work to proceed, I’m counting on the work to be successful, and I’m counting on the work to be a model for other disciplines in the commonwealth,” Santiago said. “And by a true system, I don’t mean one that functions on the basis of command and control such as the systems I worked in [previously]. But one where collaboration trumps competition, while embracing the uniqueness of each higher education institution. I have come to learn that early educators, given the nature of their inquiry, value collaboration and sharing of ideas.”
During the roundtable discussions that followed, leadership program graduates presented on topics such as Transforming Teaching and Learning, Engaging and Partnering With Family, and Taking Action on ECE Quality and Policy.
In the Developing Leaders workshop, Jonie Latimer-Brady,(Post Master’s Certificate ’17) discussed the innovative on-boarding program she created to improve staff retention at her center. The program consisted of regular meetings with administrative personnel and newly hired educators, opportunities to socialize with veteran educators, individualized and group professional development plans, and opportunities to give input on training, procedures, and classroom routines. When the unexpected death of Latimer-Brady’s husband forced her to be offsite for two months, the staff was able to pull together and carry on without her.
“They don’t even need me now,” Latimer-Brady told the roundtable attendees. “I’m just there for inspiration.”
After lunch, Douglass talked about her 2017 book Leading for Change in Early Care and Education: Cultivating Leadership from Within, in which she returned to her earlier theme of elevating ECE leaders from within the field by making them more visible.
“How do we build a movement around our leadership?” Douglass asked the crowd. “The people who are going to fix this problem are in this room.”