Early Education Leaders, an Institute at UMass Boston

provides the leadership development opportunities and infrastructure that early educators need to support thriving children and families.

Meet a StrongStart PDC Coach: Shauna Trick

Shauna Trick is a nurturer by nature, which is why she was drawn to a career in ECE. For 25 years she has supported the growth and development of countless infants, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners, and school-age children in a range of settings. For many years, Trick has also channeled her love for encouraging others to reach their potential by mentoring other educators, including as the lead coach at the StrongStart Northeast Professional Development Center (PDC) since 2021. 

Right now, said Trick, many of the educators she coaches are seeking help with classroom management and behavior supports. Others need support in curriculum design, developing administrative systems. She is also working with new program leaders unexpectedly thrust into their roles as the ECE profession continues to struggle through a staffing shortage. 

As a coach, Trick aims to help early educators identify the principal causes of the challenges they’re facing. In one instance, less experienced educators sought her help for extreme behavioral issues in their classroom. But when Trick observed the class, she did not see children acting out in dramatic fashion. Rather, she saw children who simply needed more teacher engagement and communication, especially at transition times. 

“It’s not until we get to the root cause, after we do some observations, that we find out what we really need to work on,” said Trick. “So in this case, we’re working on improving behavior management by talking about social emotional strategies, improving transition times, and using children’s interest to drive these interactions.” 

Trick makes clear that coaching is about supporting educators in creating solutions tailored to their programs or classrooms, rather than dictating how they should do things. “We can provide lots of suggestions about what to do,” she said, “but really it’s about finding what’s comfortable for a teacher or program leader at that moment.” 

StrongStart PDC coaches take a collaborative yet systematic approach to coaching, employing a range of proven tools and protocols such as the SMART goal method of goal-setting, which emphasizes goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This structure ensures sessions are purposeful, productive, and above all, beneficial for early educators who don’t have a lot of time to waste, said Trick. 

Trick completed and helped facilitate the StrongStart Coaching Institute as part of her work with the Northeast PDC. She credited it with teaching her new strategies for how to implement plans and facilitate in group settings. The Coaching Institute also gave her the opportunity to engage with other lead coaches working around the state, which she also found beneficial. 

The most important thing she learned, however, was “that compassion fatigue is real, and that maybe I was also suffering from it.” That revelation caused Trick to reconsider how she managed her time and how she took care of herself. As part of coaching cases she aims to support program leaders in the area of self care using mindfulness activities when they seem fit. 

“As early educators, as coaches, we have to make sure that we’re caring for ourselves while we’re doing this work,” she said. While we’re helping early educators and their teams take care of themselves, we also have to do that for ourselves because the compassion fatigue can take over.” (Editor’s note: To learn more about early educator wellness and self-care, see our blog post, “Practicing health, wellness, and self care as early educators.”)

In addition to her coaching duties, Trick also facilitates professional learning communities (PLCs) for early educators through the Northeast PDC, which is working on transitioning the professional development trainings back to in-person meetings from pandemic-induced Zoom sessions. Participants in the in-person PLCs, said Trick, “just eat it up because it’s wonderful to be back together with people.” 

She wants more early educators to take advantage of their local PDC. “I just think that it’s a wonderful resource that people should take advantage of because it’s free and really high quality,” Trick said. “These services are here for us!”

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