Early Ed Leadership & Innovation

We train frontline early educators and child care business owners in entrepreneurial leadership, and research ways to support them at scale

Meet Our 2020-2021 Early Education Leadership Fellows


We are pleased to announce the selection of eight Early Educator Leadership Fellows for the 2020-2021 cohort of our Post-Master’s Certificate Program in Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice

This group of experienced early childhood educators will spend the next two years immersed in intensive training in entrepreneurial leadership, early childhood policy, and the science of early learning. They will also connect with and join our growing network of emerging and established ECE leaders.“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the field of early care and education. As we continue to adapt and evolve, we’re going to need bold leadership from the field,” said Lynne Mendes, Director of Leadership Programs for the Leadership Institute. “These Early Education Leadership Fellows will be on the forefront of leading the change needed to reinvent early care and education in Massachusetts and beyond so that every child has affordable access to quality care.” 

The Post-Master’s Certificate program at the Leadership Institute provides early educators, directors, and small business owners with training in relational and entrepreneurial leadership designed to foster the skills, competencies, and mindsets needed for driving change and innovation in early care and education research, practice and policy. 

More than 120 PMC alumni have formed a powerful leadership corps, leveraging their practical experience and leadership training to improve ECE quality and children’s learning, and mentoring the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. Past graduates of the Post-Master’s Certificate Program have gone on to pursue doctoral study to advance scholarship in the field, led quality improvement efforts in their programs, sought new positions to make change on a scale greater than that possible in their prior job, served on professional advisory boards, and launched entrepreneurial ventures including the establishment of innovative models of ECE. 

The Leadership Fellows were selected based on their experience and interest in advancing the field of early care and education. They represent a variety of public, private, and community-based programs. The Post-Master’s Certificate Program in Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice is supported by grant funding and students are offered tuition scholarships and stipends that offset program-related costs. Courses take place online and on Saturdays to accommodate employment- and family-related responsibilities. 

The following are the 2020-2021 Early Educator Leadership Fellows: 

  • Maria Maloney, elementary school counselor, Monson
  • Melissa Bennett, kindergarten teacher, Natick
  • Nicole Plummer, program director, Roxbury
  • Pamela Thompson, early childhood education coach, Boston
  • Sarah Sian, executive director, Somerville
  • Shauna Dacus, grade 2 teacher, North Andover
  • Sheila M. Gould, Associate Professor of Education and Early Childhood Programs Coordinator at Holyoke Community College
  • Sunnie Zechariah, head teacher and curriculum coordinator, West Roxbury

 About the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation

The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation was founded in 2016 and is a university-wide initiative housed in the College of Education and Human Development at UMass Boston. It is mobilizing leadership from the field to create systems of early care and education in which all young children and their families thrive. To realize this vision, it drives system change in three ways. First, it cultivates racially and linguistically diverse leaders with entrepreneurial leadership training. Second, it sustains those leaders and supports their development and influence through its growing leadership and innovation network. Last, it conducts original research that contributes new knowledge about the impact of leadership in early care and education, and its potential as a powerful lever for equity and social change. With this work, the Leadership Institute is creating ecosystems throughout the field that recognize, support, and sustain the leadership of early educators to drive change and improvement so that all programs of early care and education are high quality, affordable, and accessible for all children and families.



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