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

November 8, 2021

Teaching young children about post-pandemic social interaction

PMC graduate Emilee Johnson

As early care and education (ECE) programs fully re-opened after the pandemic-related suspension in 2020, educators and caregivers noticed that many children were anxious about doing things that have been—for nearly all of human history—considered normal: playing in large groups and being outside without having to wear a mask.

In response, Emilee Johnson, the educational coordinator at Boston Children’s Hospital Child Care Center, wrote “Our New Normal: A Children’s Social Story for Post-Pandemic Lives.”

Published last June, the book provides guidance about how to address the concerns of children and parents about whether it was genuinely safe to loosen COVID-19-related restrictions (many of which have since been reinstated due to the Delta variant). Even during outside activities, says Johnson, children had so internalized the messages about health and safety that they were reluctant to remove their masks. Continue Reading →

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April 22, 2021

Early Ed Leadership Institute Statement on Derek Chauvin Trial

The guilty verdicts in Derek Chauvin’s trial mean that Derek Chauvin will be held accountable for the murder of George Floyd, and we hope they give Floyd’s family and community some space to heal. But these verdicts will not bring justice to Mr. Floyd, who should be alive today. Nor will they bring justice to his family, or to countless other Black people who have been killed by those sworn to uphold the law.  Continue Reading →

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December 15, 2020

Meet our Statewide Training and Industry Navigation Manager


Teddy Kokoros

For Teddy Kokoros, collaboration, connection, and information sharing come naturally. He maintains a blog that shares news of relevance to early educators and also gives a platform for early educators to share their research and ideas. He uses his Twitter and Facebook accounts to do the same. And in 2019, he ran for (and won) a seat on his hometown’s board of library trustees because he wants to encourage collaboration among early educators and the town’s library.

“I think something the ECE field should be doing is finding ways to build partnerships with people in the community because these partnerships, whether they’re with K-12 schools, summer camps, museums, or libraries, makes the early education community stronger,” Kokoros says. Continue Reading →

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November 23, 2020

Maryland re-invests in Leading for Change curriculum

As the Leadership Institute wraps up its first year implementing its Leading for Change curriculum in the post-baccalaureate program of the Maryland Early Childhood Leadership Education Program (MECLP), the Maryland State Department of Education has announced that it will invest an additional $150,000 in the program.

MECLP is an early education leadership program of the Sherman Center for Early Childhood Learning in Urban Communities at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Below: Leadership Institute Executive Director and Professor Anne Douglass (fifth from right) and Leadership Institute Deputy Director Amanda Wiehe Lopes (fourth from right) with MECLP's first cohort of Early Education Leadership Fellows.

Leadership Institute Executive Director and Professor Anne Douglass (fifth from right) and Leadership Institute Deputy Director Amanda Wiehe Lopes (fourth from right) with MECLP’s first cohort of Early Education Leadership Fellows.

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November 22, 2020

Meet our Director of Leadership Programs

This is a profile photos of Director of Leadership Programs Lynne Mendes

Director of Leadership Programs Lynne Mendes

In her role as Director of Leadership Programs for the Institute of Early Education Leadership and Innovation, Lynne Mendes is much more than an educator, trainer, and facilitator. She is an evangelist for the field.

“We already have leaders working throughout early care and education. They might not think of themselves as leaders. But they’ve worked in every setting you can imagine,” says Mendes. “They come from all over the world and they’re so talented, so we just draw from that.”

One of the first things Mendes teaches the family child care and small business owners in the Leadership Institute’s Small Business Innovation Center program is that that they are, in fact, business owners. Through the course, which is anchored with the Leadership Institute’s curriculum on entrepreneurial leadership, participants go through a shift in mindset where they begin to see that their work is just as vital to the life of local neighborhoods as the pizza shop, hair salon, or insurance agency. Continue Reading →

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October 13, 2020

Small business moves that add up

“Every day, I look forward to starting my day with the children—teaching them new skills, social interaction, celebrating milestones like their first step or their first word; watching them try new foods and making new friends, and all that stuff,” said Joycelyn Browne, owner of Little Ones Child Care in Dorchester.

But Joyce also knows there’s more to operating a successful ECE program than the joy of helping children learn, grow, and thrive. That’s why she enrolled in our Small Business Innovation Center program, which Browne credits with teaching her “different ways of improving my business, marketing my business, different ways of teaching the kids, and creating curriculum.” Continue Reading →

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September 23, 2020

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. Continue Reading →

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September 10, 2020
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Creating a culture of learning

Portrait photo of Alicia Jno-Baptiste

Wee Care JP owner Alicia Jno-Baptiste: “I feel more confident running my business and I think people look at me differently, too, because I have more expertise.”

You can’t be successful directing a small early child care program unless you’re an expert in early childhood development and the science of early brain development. But it also helps to understand accounting, marketing, human resources, facilities management, and bulk purchasing. Many owners of early care and education businesses pick up enough business skills to get by. But there’s a big difference between getting by and maximizing profits.

When Alicia Jno-Baptiste signed up for our Small Business Innovation Center program she relied on a bookkeeper to keep track of her business accounts. By her own admission, she “didn’t have a clue” about how to analyze the monthly reports. After going through the Small Business Innovation Center program with other entrepreneurs, Jno-Baptiste learned about cash flow and how to analyze the costs of care to ensure a profit along with other business needs like marketing, facilities management, and automating tasks.

Jno-Baptiste, who owns Wee Care JP, still employs a bookkeeper, but now when she gets the monthly reports, she can read the numbers. “I can see if we’ve reached our income goal, how much we’ve spent, where we’re down, and where we need to be,” Jno-Baptiste said. “I can head off financial trouble much sooner because I can see it coming and be proactive in dealing with it.” Continue Reading →

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August 11, 2020

Never Stop Learning

When Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark announced her Child Care Is Infrastructure Act, which would authorize $10 billion over five years to invest in the early care and education sector (ECE), she did so with ECE experts by her side who told reporters how their businesses were being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of Clark’s experts was Jessica DeJesus Acevedo, a recent graduate of our Post-Master’s Certificate in Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice program who was accepted this summer into our PhD program.

“Day care and early child care are the foundation for children’s academic and social success in life,” Acevedo said during the press conference, which was streamed live over Facebook. Acevedo added that owners of private ECE programs needed more grants and funding to keep their businesses going through the pandemic.

Acevedo certainly knows what she’s talking about. From her first child development classes as a high school student to owning a family day care with her sister to her current studies in our Early Education Research, Policy and Practice PhD program, Jessica DeJesus Acevedo has dedicated her career to the field of ECE.

Over the past 10-plus years, Acevedo cared for children in her aunt’s family day care and worked as a classroom aide, a substitute teacher, and an after-school teacher. When her aunt retired, Acevedo and her sister, Jennie DeJesus Acevedo, bought the child care program, becoming the owners of Little Star of Ours Daycare in Cambridge.

As she accumulated this work experience, Acevedo simultaneously earned her undergraduate degree in early education, a master’s degree, and our Post-Master’s Certificate. She also prepared for, and passed, the Massachusetts teacher licensing exam.

Acevedo acknowledges balancing work and the various stages of her education has been stressful. But she adds, “It was getting me ready for this.”

“This” being a pandemic that has waylaid an industry that was already struggling with low wages and wafer-thin profit margins, as providers now grapple with how to safely resume serving families and still pay the bills—potentially leaving untold numbers of working parents without ECE options.

In addition to short-term grants, Acevedo says that longer-term systemic changes are also needed to bolster the field. These include greater funding for teacher preparation for individuals entering the field, more opportunities for educational advancement and free training for current educators, and collaboration between the Commonwealth’s departments of elementary and secondary education and early education and care.

Acevedo credits the support of her sister for enabling her pursuit of both higher education and ECE advocacy. “Jennie has been the anchor to our daycare when I’m not here, and she has always seen the value of, “Okay, I’ll hold down the fort while you go and fight the war,” Acevedo says.

Both sisters believe Acevedo’s offsite activities aren’t just good for their profession as a whole, but they help their individual business, too.

“I’ve really been highly focused on education and advocacy and making sure that when people hear our business name they think of us pushing the envelope,” Acevedo says. “But they also know that our daycare is our number one priority and that when the kids are here they are our highest priority.”

Acevedo says that she was able to develop her leadership skills as both an educator and an entrepreneur in the PMC program. “I was getting that affirmation from my teachers that I can be both an educator and an entrepreneur—that it is essential,” she said. “There’s a need for us to step up as entrepreneurs right now, not just in education, but also business and economic issues. Child care plays an essential role in the economic life of our communities—but early educators don’t usually receive the instruction we need to be successful in that area.”

The program also gave her confidence to be an advocate for ECE. “What is important for me right now as a young adult, young professional, and young entrepreneur, is using my story to reach more people and to support more people, because my struggles in this profession aren’t just mine, they’re everybody’s,” says Acevedo. “So if we all support each other a little bit more every day, we can definitely make strides.”

Now, as a student in our PhD program, Acevedo is interested in studying the effect of high-quality early education and care on the children of working-class families and single-parent homes who may be struggling to make ends meet but do not live below the poverty line.

“We have so much research and information on the benefits of child care for children living in poverty, but what about everyone else?,” Acevdeo asks. “What does the rest of the population look like? What is the impact of high quality child care on these children and families? I think I know the answer, but we need more research in this area.”

There can be little doubt that given her track record, Acevedo will find answers to her questions. Meanwhile, given her own pursuit of higher education, it’s not surprising to hear Acevedo advise others who may be thinking about the PMC program to just take the plunge and apply. “Every time you put yourself out there and apply, you’re aligning yourself with your goals, even if you don’t make it the first time,” says Acevedo. “Don’t let words or applications or fees hold you back from your greatness and what you can do in the future because they’re just all small steps in the right direction.”

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July 8, 2020

Building community

Dottie Williams

Dottie Williams: “You’re not just taking care of someone’s child. You’re taking care of your community.”

“My families and my community needed me to stay open. I never thought about shutting down,” says Dorothy (Dottie) Williams, of her decision to remain open through the COVID-19 crisis as one of the state’s 500 emergency early education and child care providers.

“You’re not just taking care of someone’s child. You’re taking care of your community,” says Williams of her decision to remain open throughout the pandemic. Williams’ emphasis on community is evinced by the fact that older neighborhood children whose younger siblings are now in Williams’ care still gave hugs (pre-COVID-19) when they came through her door.

“They have fond memories [of being in my program]. I have fond memories of them,” says Williams, who is a Leadership Fellow in our Post-Master’s Certificate Program and a graduate of our Small Business Innovation Center. “It’s a community.” Continue Reading →

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