Reflections on the 2019-2020 school year

This year’s cohort of Teacher Education Program Resident Teachers experienced changes in our national society, the likes of which have not been seen in our lifetimes. Through it all, they remained dedicated to learning alongside and from the young children in their classes.

Rachel Lurie, Resident Teacher, 2019-2020, submitted the following paper as the Culminating Assessment of her year enrolled in the Teacher Education Program. She spoke to her growth, her challenges, and her hopes for the future.

Rachel with a child from her class. Taken Sept. 2019, at the beginning of her journey.

I grew up in an unstable home where children did not have a voice. As we grew into adults we were expected to be stable and communicative. This translation was not possible. What we learn in childhood translates to who we are as adults.

 I became a teacher six years ago to empower children, yet less than a year ago I truly began to understand what it means to hold a strong image of the child. Children are innovative, brilliant, powerful, and empathetic. Throughout this past year working at Boulder Journey School as well as learning alongside and from some of the most beautiful minds in the Early Childhood Education world I find myself becoming less of a teacher and more of an advocator and lifelong learner. The word “teacher” has taken on a new meaning for me.

This experience has opened my mind to the importance of families and communities and how to partner with them. I have learned of my own biases and how to acknowledge and work to diminish them. I learned to celebrate diversity and many different cultures for they are the fabrics that weave together to make our school whole. And, most importantly, I have learned about the young learners in all of their magnificence – how to honor their voices, how to learn alongside them in their wonder, how to advocate for their rights, how to document their curiosities. The child is powerful beyond all measure. 

During this time I have grown not only as a teacher, but as a person. One extremely noticeable change is in my leadership abilities. Visionary leadership is defined through the Boulder Journey School Professional Qualities as, “your capacity for being a leader in your professional context who inspires others. You will possess a vision for the present and for the future and understand how your daily actions and interactions with children and adults does or does not model elements of your vision. You will view yourself as a leader who wants to co-create other leaders.”

To speak to this growth I first need to establish what my baseline was prior to the Teacher Education Program. My undergraduate degree was in psychology. I did not have formal training in education and thus possessed a sense of imposter syndrome. I would never have considered myself a leader, I barely considered myself a teacher. 

During the Fall semester we began our learning adventure creating a solid foundation that we built upon during the Spring semester. However, halfway through the Spring semester we were plagued with COVID-19. When the pandemic swept the world the families of our classroom turned to us with questions – What do they do? How do they teach their children? How can they continue learning at home? 

 In that moment we became much more than teachers, we became confidants. We were the experts for the families and the friendly faces for our students.We quickly became the leaders in this unprecedented time. We were the stability in all of the chaos. We had daily Zoom meetings every morning which our students along with their siblings and parents would attend. Parents would email us asking us specific behavioral questions, how to spark imagination and creativity in their child, how to extend the learning to home. School buildings may have been closed, but it did not end education. Their home was also functioning as a school.

To me this encompassed the foundation that Reggio Emilia schools were built on – parents and teachers working alongside each other to give students an authentic education. We, as teachers, set the pace and the families followed our lead, but it was a dialogue to make sure both the needs of the teachers and the needs of the families were being met. Because we opened up and communicated more it allowed the parents to do the same. In the book, Possible Schools: The Reggio Approach to Urban Education the author speaks to the same effect, “When . . . asked about families . . . families surprised us every day with things they would never have done before . . . She explained that our increased communication with families showed them we respected them and their children. And they were proud, not only of their children but of the school” (Lewin-Benham, 2006, p. 145). 

As a leader, I feel that I gained a lot of confidence in knowing that I held an expertise viewpoint based on knowledge acquired from classes such as Social Supportive Learning and Contextual Curriculum, but additionally I felt confident as a leader in being able to delegate to parents and share the information that I possessed. I felt that I could be a reliable resource for them. Going forward, I can’t imagine returning to a state where I feel as if I am not an expert in my field, imposter syndrome is completely gone. Going backwards is not an option, and not including families in this extremely important time in their child’s lives isn’t an option. Together we foster the children’s sense of self, we are their community. 

With this, I developed tremendously in another area: courage. The Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program Professional Qualities describes the quality of courage as, “your capacity for taking risks and challenging the status quo. You will be courageous to go against the grain and to not always do things because they are popular or because they have always been done a particular way. You will be willing to try things out (with both children and adults), to take risks and be audacious – not just any education is enough.”

In the midst of COVID-19 we had another huge moment in history: the dramatic rise of Black Lives Matter, a revolution that has been coming for centuries. With three white women as teachers and a class of all white children the questions arose: Do we approach this topic with the children? If so, what would be a developmentally appropriate manner? How will the families react with us opening this conversation?

The phrase “against the grain” kept repeating itself in my mind. By ignoring the systemic racism or simply not acknowledging what is going on outside of our school is denying the children their right to be part of the community. It is also suppressing those who are oppressed and not being an advocate for change. 

We must discuss this topic, but how? I went to a Black Lives Matter protest on a Sunday and came to school the next day to open the discussion. I showed them pictures, explained why we were coming together to protest. I answered any questions that I could and was honest when I did not have an answer. We did have one instance that I felt nervous in addressing: a child in my class heard a police siren and became frightened because his parents told him that the police were killing people. What do we do? My mentor teacher felt that we need police officers to help us when we get into trouble, I felt that they weren’t being helpful and the child had every right to fear them. Do we continue to teach that police officers are community helpers or do we discourage the image that they have traditionally held in our minds? 

We made the decision to teach against the grain, which was quoted beautifully by Cochran-Smith, “Teachers need to know from the start that they are a part of a larger struggle and that they have a responsibility to reform, not just replicate, standard school practices . . . Teaching against the grain stems from, but also generates, critical perspectives on the macro-level relationships of power, labor, and ideology” (Zeichner, Bowman, Guillen, & Napolitan, 2016, p. 281). 

To honor the children’s inquisitive nature of the world around them as well as collaborate with the families to form a cohesive community, we chose the courageous route – not the one of ignoring or of ignorance, but one of reality. Previously, we had done a deep dive into the wonderings on morality, courageously, and honestly, we talked and learned together again.

In order to continue to honor the children and their right to be a citizen of the world I feel that I will continue to engage them in these types of conversations and listen as they form their own opinions. In addition, I believe having a growth mindset as well as being open-minded I will be able to collaborate with future co-teachers despite us having different opinions. 

As much as I have grown throughout the past year, I have found myself feeling limited in two capacities. 

One being finding difficulties breaking the barrier and engaging with parents. Communication and collaboration is a space where I feel that I fall short, especially written communication. 

Something that I believe has inhibited this growth to bloom fully is the families in our class engage with my mentor teacher more comfortably. I believe that as I continue on with our current students next year, and my mentor teacher moves onto her next opportunity, a natural progression will happen where the families will feel more comfortable communicating with me. I also believe that I held this belief that families were intimidating. However, one of the positive outcomes from COVID-19 has been the breakdown of that barrier. I also believe that practice in communicating will naturally help this as well. When my role shifts from resident teacher to mentor teacher I will take on a new set of responsibilities, including communication. Reading about effective communication strategies will also be of big assistance. 

One other space where I feel there is room to grow is in literacy of technology. Children have the right to engage with the world around them, which includes technology. During COVID-19 our entire curriculum became virtual. Once we were able to return to in classroom learning I held a disdain for technology while the children now craved it – they incorporated it into their play making computers out of folded pieces of paper and having Zoom calls with one another through them and using dominoes as cell phones and calling each other from across the classroom. Technology became their norm. I was burned out from technology overload from trying to stay connected during the pandemic. However, is that fair to the children? 

I would like to incorporate technology into our contextual curriculum and I believe that to do so I need to become more aware of what is available other than a computer. Collaborating with other teachers to learn what they are using in their classrooms as well as speaking to those who are outside of the classroom setting such as Alex Morgan or Jacie Engel and find out what they would advise could give our children more of an opportunity to engage with technology. 

The Maymester course Messing Around with STEM brought to light different views on the importance of technology. “The kind of knowledge children most need is the knowledge that will help them get more knowledge . . . Instruction in programming the computer and thinking about how to develop a complex project was like teaching her to catch fish. With these skills she could build her software and transform her thinking about fractions.” (Papert, 2000, pp. 139-140). Technology can be incorporated into authentic learning, and learning what different types of technology are available is a good first step. Also, revisiting older technology such as simple machines or light tables would enhance the classroom environment. 

Despite all of the challenges this year has thrown our way with a global pandemic and a revolution rightfully taking place, we as a cohort have maintained a growth mindset. We are resilient beyond all measures and for that we will be graduating with our masters degree and a new appreciation for our rising generation. May they be as strong and brilliant as this Teacher Education Program has made us. 

References

Lewin-Benham, A. (2006). Our Families, Other Educators. In Possible schools: The Reggio Approach to Urban Education (pp. 130-147). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Papert, S. (2000). The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. New York, NY: BasicBooks.

Zeichner, K., Bowman, M., Guillen, L., & Napolitan, K. (2016). Engaging and Working in Solidarity With Local Communities in Preparing the Teachers of Their Children. Journal of Teacher Education, 67(4), 277-290. doi:10.1177/0022487116660623

Reflections from the Teacher Education Program

Reflections from the Teacher Education Program, October 2019

Jen Selbitschka, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program Director

We are excited to launch a full catalog of new courses this year. One of these courses is EDHD 6400: Observation, Documentation, and Assessment.

While this course has many objectives, there are two that drive the core of the work. The first is to hone in on the experience of documenting to bring awareness and attention to the decisions made when in the moment with children. This awareness and attention supports Resident Teachers in becoming more intuitive documenters, increasing their chances of gathering artifacts that have potential for unpacking meaning and giving visibility to children’s thinking and learning processes.

Some questions the Resident Teachers consider to develop this awareness and attention include:

  • Is what you want to document best captured through photographs, notes, videos, and/or sketches?

  • When do you choose to take a photograph and why?

  • When do you choose to take notes and why?

  • When do you choose to take videos as opposed to photographs, and vice versa, and why?

  • When you are taking video, what causes you to choose to keep the camera focused on a particular situation for a particular duration of time, and when do you choose to change the focus to something else in the experience and then back again?

  • When do you zoom the camera in and zoom the camera out and why?

  • How do you find yourself participating through documenting?

 

The second guiding purpose of the course is to develop competencies in extracting meaning and understanding from documented artifacts. This unpacking generates multiple hypotheses and interpretations about the experience to inform understandings and decisions about next steps in the teaching process.

One challenge of the course is to break down culturally-influenced connotations that impact how we interpret the concepts of observation, documentation, and assessment. This process of breaking down has involved a great deal of “unlearning” through ongoing reflection and critical examination of the Resident Teachers’ direct experiences. Inspired by readings from Reggio Emilia, Italy and other inspired educators, we seek to embrace this experience of observation, documentation, and assessment as an effort to understand and a process of coming to know.


Here are a few reflections from Resident Teachers on the class so far:

Through the three rounds of observation and documentation, I learned a lot about myself because I needed to be vulnerable during the experiences and during the reflection after. I think this learning happened because I was forced to think about how I was feeling/what I was doing during the observations, which helped me learn about myself and how reflecting on the experiences was important for my learning in the classroom with the children.

There really is no end point or answer to observing and gaining insights. It is a continuous process and it’s okay to not get what you wanted or were hoping for, as the process is equally/more important.

I have begun learning to accept my subjectivity and involvement in what I engage in observation and documentation.

Observing and documenting is more than just a blurb on the wall next to an art project. I never knew that through documentation I could show how I am forming a relationship with a child. 

Now I am learning that documenting and observing is ongoing, never conclusive, and assumptions are just that… they are not conclusions.

I think I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned to lean into the hard feelings and ask, why am I feeling this way? We analyze the children’s feelings and we analyze our feelings too! It’s a way to learn and to grow.


We would love to have your voice in conversations like these.

Join the 2020 – 2021 Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program. Visit our website to learn more www.boulderjourneyschool.com/TEP

Reflections from Reggio Emilia – March, 2019

Each year, our Teacher Education Program Cohort travels to Reggio Emilia, Italy to participate in a study group in the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre

Sandra O’Donnell, a graduate student from the 2018-2019 BJS TEP cohort shared the following reflections.

Simply being immersed in the city of Reggio Emilia was a transformative experience. Having the opportunity to tour preschool and infant/toddler centers was certainly a highlight! I gained a clearer understanding of progettazione and how projects can be revisited and shared amongst other classrooms. I remember one classroom beautifully displayed documentation offering pages of photos and text along with the children’s clay sculptures. The teacher explained to me how the children were investigating movement and the physical body. They initially expressed their ideas and discoveries in small groups, engaging in different movement experiences and further represented their thinking through clay and paper materials. The documentation represents months of exploration, which continues to evolve. This served as a reminder that children can construct deeper understanding and meaning in their work when offered ample time to explore with several different materials.

The 2018 – 2019 BJS TEP cohort with the great stone Lions of Reggio Emilia

Sonny Apodaca, another member of the 2018 – 2019 cohort shared these reflections.

Visiting Reggio Emilia, Italy was an incredibly invigorating experience. I felt inspired and excited the entire time I was there. The schools are each unique with their own defined identity and significant history that have helped shape it throughout the years. The schools are amazing! I left each one feeling more and more motivated with my head full of amazing classroom set-ups, provocations, and documentation styles. I am eager to bring many of these ideas into my own classrooms.

The teachers of Reggio Emilia, Italy were as inspiring as the classrooms and schools they have helped create. Every single person who steps foot into a Reggio Emilia school breathes life into it and every person is seen as equally important to the way the school lives and thrives in its community.

The teachers truly value the learning of children and see children as true protagonists in their own learning and discovery. Annalisa Rabotti, a teacher at the Nidi School, said that teachers must always listen deeper to what children are saying and doing. She said we need, “a listening that goes deeper, that hears children’s’ questions and builds new questions; that builds new elements of research. A kind of listening which is courageous, that dares, a daring kind of listening that isn’t afraid of change; a kind of listening which is capable of doing somersaults with our thoughts.”

Through my observations of the teachers and the schools in Reggio Emilia, they truly do exemplify and live this kind of thinking.

Along with this kind of thinking comes a deep value and significance placed on interdependence. Starting in the infant-toddler centers of Reggio Emilia, children learn and understand the value of relying on another person, as well as the value of being relied on and being viewed as a valuable resource for information or guidance. While observing the children of the Reggio Emilia preschools it is clear to see the confidence, joy, and autonomy they have in their own learning.

Teachers have deliberately decided not to problem solve for children and instead continually ask children to be brave and try on their own; the children do try and they try alongside their peers. They take risks in their learning, with the knowledge that if and when they do need help or direction, there is a teacher ready to learn and discover alongside them.

It seems to me that our culture and society often values independence over interdependence and this is often cultivated in schools by choosing to have children each complete individual school projects or tests, and children often have to sit in their own individual desks.

What stood out to me as being significant while in Reggio Emilia is that, through the cultivation of interdependence, children appeared to develop more independence and have more confidence in their abilities to accomplish their work. Through their reliance on their peers, teachers, and materials, the children were able to create deeper understandings and develop more confidence in their own significant capabilities.


To read more about the Study Group to Reggio Emilia, click here.

Empathy in Infant-Aged Children: Advanced Developmentally Appropriate Course

In the Spring semester, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) graduate students enroll in ECED 5104: Advanced Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum (ADAC). Throughout the semester, the graduate students engage in curriculum development through action research in order to better understand learning and teaching, documentation as a form of assessment, and partnering with students around the development of a contextually meaningful curriculum. Through this process, they also encounter opportunities to make an impact beyond their classroom walls.

To read more about the ADAC course, view this post.

Join Kayla Chung, 2017-2018 BJSTEP graduate student for an exploration related to her work in the ADAC course.


My practicum experience this year is in the older infant classroom working with children ages 9-16 months. In the ADAC course, I am actively learning how a contextually-emergent curriculum is developed in close collaboration with the children, my co-teachers, my instructors, and my colleagues. The primary means of creating a contextually-emergent curriculum in the infant room is through an Action Research Project. The question I have chosen to research is:

How do relationships support the development of empathy in infant-aged children?

Within this question, there have been two sub-questions that have helped guide my thinking in the classroom with the children:

  1. How do objects/materials support the development of empathy with the infants?
  2. How do relationships within the classroom, the school, the families, and the community support the development of empathy with infants?

Before I could begin my work of implementing experiences, observing, documenting and analyzing documentation, and planning for more experiences, it was necessary for me to understand how empathy is defined and expressed by citizens of the relationship groups I was researching. I sought to understand the perspectives from the children, my co-teachers and colleagues, the families, and the community surrounding these individuals.


 

“Listening means being open to differences, recognizing the value of another’s point of view and interpretation. Thus, listening becomes not only a pedagogical strategy but also a way of thinking and looking at others.”

-Carlina Rinaldi, President, Foundation Reggio Children – Loris Malaguzzi Center

The Families’ perspectives:

I asked the families of our classroom to share their meanings of empathy and how they have seen empathy expressed by their children. I appreciate their ideas, as they have opened my eyes to the special and unique identities that are represented by each family unit. It was important for me to display their responses in the classroom to have these identities felt and known. I also felt that unity was important to represent in our classroom, and highlighted some of the common attributes that were present in all of the responses – Empathy is:

Reflection Understanding See & Feel Care Connect

Each infant joined the classroom with their individual history of experiences and ways of understanding the world, especially within the social realm of relationships. In understanding how the families in our classroom see and experience empathy, I am better equipped to understand how their perceptions have shaped their children’s ideas and actions related to empathy. Just as each infant is learning and being shaped by their experiences with the many relationships they have now, they are gaining the necessary foundation for who they will become later.


I hope that you will continue down this journey with me, and I look forward to sharing more with you about the discoveries I am making with the children, families, co-teachers/colleagues, and the global community.

Please feel free to reach out through the comments section below this post, as well as sharing your own definitions and ways you’ve seen empathy expressed!

Advanced Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum Course: Creating Contextually Meaningful Curriculum

ECED 5104 Advanced Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum –

Creating Contextually Meaningful Curriculum

“We do not need to focus solely on the actual succession of facts, but rather to pursue by way of the story, a possible understanding of the intricate adventure of human learning.” – Sergio Spaggiari, Shoe and Meter, Reggio Children

During the Spring semester, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) graduate students enroll in ECED 5104: Advanced Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum (ADAC). Through the semester, the graduate students engage in curriculum development through action research in order to better understand learning and teaching, documentation as a form of assessment, and partnering with students around the development of a contextually meaningful curriculum. Through this process, they also encounter opportunities for creating impact beyond their classroom walls.

The Course Objectives are as follows:

  • Understand how to use a continuous cycle of observation, documentation, interpretation, and provocation to create contextually, meaningful curriculum.
  • Understand how to use documentation as a form of assessment with children and self assessment of your teaching practice.
  • Synthesize key elements from experiences with children that can be shared with colleagues for further reflection, feedback, and generation of possibilities around new experiences.
  • Synthesize key elements from experiences with children that can serve as a form of advocacy for a strong image of children and early childhood education.
  • Identify key elements from your observations of children that can be used to propel learning within an emergent, contextualized curriculum.
  • Identify and act on opportunities to partner with families in meaningful ways around their participation in the curriculum.
  • Identify and act on opportunities to partner with community members and resources in meaningful ways around their participation in the curriculum.

The bulk of the course engages the graduate students in a continuous Cycle of Inquiry guided by the following framework:

  1. (What) Design and implement experiences that invite students to encounter and explore aspects of a Focus of Research driven by research questions.
  2. (What) Observe and document these experiences, including preparations for the experiences, using a variety of tools, such as photographs, video, notes, transcribed conversations, charts, graphs and/or samples of work.
  3. (So What) Analyze documentation from these experiences and generate multiple interpretations and perspectives from these analyses as well as assessments about what students know and understand surrounding research-related material.
  4. (So What) Seek more knowledge through a variety of resources including current literature, research, interviews and/or TED Talks, etc. and make connections between what is observed and what is learned through these resources to enhance understandings and inform research questions.
  5. (So What) Synthesize and organize work from each week into a visual format to share with colleagues in class.
  6. (Now What) Thoughtfully engage colleagues in conversation around work and receive feedback surrounding the experiences offered as well as possibilities for where to go next.
  7. (What) Based on feedback and ideas generated in class and with instructors, design and implement an experience that invites students to encounter and explore aspects of the Focus of Research driven by research questions. Repeat steps 2-7.


Participation in the ADAC course follows the Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum Course that BJSTEP graduate students are enrolled in during the Fall semester.

Upcoming blog posts will highlight work from the 2017-2018 ADAC course.

Alumni Spotlight: Elizabeth Fannon

Elizabeth graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2014. She now works In Fort Collins, Colorado as Assistant Director and Coordinator of Student Learning at the Colorado State University Early Childhood Center, and Instructor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department. Since this unique role spans both early childhood education and postsecondary higher education, she is able to develop and apply a rather unique lens on learning to her work, which you can read more about below.

Where has your journey taken you since graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

I stepped out of the BJS TEP into an Assistant Director position at a nonprofit preschool in Boulder. There I helped foster a partnership with Boulder Journey School to become a practicum placement site. A year later I joined the CSU Early Childhood Center’s Administrative team to begin the next chapter in my life, working with adults and children in a Reggio-inspired laboratory school.

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

I moved from St. Louis, Missouri to Boulder in 2013, after being accepted to the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program. I had a long history of experience in St. Louis, working in a constructivist environment with other educators inspired by the work coming out of Reggio Emilia, Italy. For me, the BJS TEP demonstrated a great balance of theory and practice, and how to marry the two. I continually use the thinking I built around this marriage when working with the CSU intern students who teach at the Early Childhood Center.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

Besides the trip to Reggio?! One of my fondest memories is working with BJS Technology Specialist Sam and one of my co-teachers Leslie to explore what technological tools could foster sound exploration with toddlers. We experimented with the Makey Makey tool and spent a couple of afternoons playing with the different possibilities. We played with how to offer these materials in developmentally appropriate and creative ways to children. Based on this exploration, we ultimately installed large panels of foil on the wall in the classroom, and attached metal spoons to serve as conductors between the foil and the Makey Makey tool on the laptop. It was a learning experience for us all and a true test of the importance of “messing about” as adults.

(left) Elizabeth and her colleague Leslie embarking on their personal cultural study after their visit to the schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. (right) Elizabeth and her colleague Sam playing with the Makey Makey.

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

It’s pretty much a dream job! I really love that the ECC serves as a learning lab for adults and children. The reciprocal learning between the two cannot be ignored, and I get a lot of joy in supporting that process. The ECC is relatively new to the Reggio approach, so it’s energizing to study and reflect alongside the teachers and other administrators on what that means in our unique context. I also love working with the undergraduates in my “Creative Experiences with Children” course. Each semester I get the opportunity to facilitate thinking and questioning on the topics of teaching, learning, creativity, and the rights of children.

Elizabeth working with children at the ECC

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

In Saint Louis I was able to do some educational coaching/consulting at a United Way school in a pretty vulnerable area of the city. Working in collaboration with other colleagues and the teachers at that school, we were able to study the fundamentals of the Reggio philosophy together and embed some practices and ways of being into the classrooms. It was powerful to see the changes happen and the strong sense of self-efficacy develop within the teachers who previously had a much different view of what they and the children could do.

I’m very proud of bringing the ideas around professional learning communities to the last two school systems in which I worked. At my previous school, as well as here at the ECC, there has been tremendous growth in teachers’ practice. These experiences fostered new energy around classroom practice that came directly out of the research that teachers and administrators undertook together.

Successfully teaching and several semesters of an undergraduate class at CSU is a big, and unexpected, accomplishment. I hadn’t considered working in higher education before this role, and it was a big undertaking, but I’m super proud of how things are going!

Currently I’m co-authoring a manuscript for the next Innovations Peer Reviewed publication. I’m super pumped for that to come out in 2018!

Adult learning experiences Elizabeth helped design through the Creative Experiences with Children course she teaches (pictured left) and through Professional Learning Communities at the ECC (pictured right)

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

That’s a tough one. I feel compelled by many things at the moment! I think if I had to narrow it down it would be promoting the work of the teachers and children at the ECC and making it more visible in the community (Fort Collins and beyond). Through this work, we are advocating for the rights of children by engaging in conversation with others about their view of children and childhood.

We are taking more steps to do so in a variety of ways. We continue to partner with more departments at CSU, which brings different professionals and students majoring in things other than education into our spaces. I also like inviting ECC teachers to be guest lecturers at my Creative Experiences class, so students hear perspectives and realities other than mine about the value of a constructivist environment. We have started hanging documentation of children’s experiences on campus and in businesses around town too. This is something I would like to develop more momentum around. I’ve been talking with Sam Hall as well, and it looks like we have an opportunity to screen the Voices of Children Documentary at the school!

More internally, I think we are taking great leaps in making visible to our families the learning long term investigations with children offer. For example, this fall semester our older toddler children and teachers embarked on a journey, focusing on children’s photography and perspective taking. They collaborated with families, documented children’s photography preferences, invited the toddlers to document their peers’ experiences, and are curating a gallery open to the entire ECC community in one of our school’s common spaces.

On a larger scale, several teachers have published articles, sharing stories from their classroom, and I hope with the publication of our manuscript in Innovations, the amazing work coming out of the ECC will be even more visible. Eventually, I’d like the ECC to host the Hawkins Centers of Learning Exhibit, Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child, and develop professional development opportunities for other educators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Linda Miron

Linda graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2014. She now owns a consulting business, Collaborative Learning Consulting Services, through which she plans and conducts professional development trainings and provides coaching and support to schools and organizations in Boulder County, Colorado. When she enrolled in the BJS TEP, she had already work for about thirty years as an early childhood teacher and director. However, she approached her journey in the program with curiosity and openness. This was not only beneficial to her own learning, it was also beneficial to the learning of the colleagues in her cohort, as well as to the Instructors! We invite you to check out her unique perspectives below.

Where has your journey taken you since graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

When I graduated from the BJS TEP, I resumed a full time director role at the school I had been working at previously. In 2016, however, I began a new chapter. I wanted to support teachers, directors, and children in a new way, so I stepped down from my director position, and I began my consulting business. Almost immediately, I began to be offered contracts, working with early education professionals in different capacities. I started teaching and coaching for the Expanding Quality for Infants and Toddlers initiative (EQIT), and I started coaching for other initiatives through the Early Childhood Council of Boulder County. I was able to work with programs who were some of the first in Boulder County to go through the Colorado Shines System. I was able to work with centers and family child care homes with really diverse family populations. I was able to help schools build more family engagement. I was able to lead various large group professional development trainings. The contracts just kept coming, and very quickly I went from thinking this would be a part time business to feeling like I would soon need to hire an employee. It’s been really exciting to build a business from the ground up!

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

When I enrolled in the program, I had been a Director for 25 years, and I had lost a little bit of what it really meant to be a teacher. In that way, the practicum was really challenging and humbling. I absolutely did not realize how much information I didn’t know. The different classes I completed through the program helped me discover such important information, and I find myself really utilizing all of that now in my role as a consultant.

Another piece that I thought was really cool about the program was experiencing personalized learning first hand. I’m not a traditional learner, and it stopped me from pursuing my education for a lot of years. I really wanted to pursue a Master’s Degree, but I was terrified. The more I talked to BJS TEP Administrators, and heard from people who had completed the program before me, I realized that it’s not a traditional way of learning. It’s customized, so that each person can learn through their own style. That has really made an impression on me as I do my work now. Because I was immersed in that style and was able to see all the different ways that my fellow colleagues were learning throughout the BJS TEP, I can now apply that in the ways in which I work with clients.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

I was an Infant teacher in my practicum at Boulder Journey School. It was not an experience I thought I was going to do well with. In fact, I was terrified. I had never worked directly with infants before. As soon as I began in the infant room, I realized that it was an incredible learning opportunity. Just being on the floor with the children and noticing all the subtleties of their communication and behavior was powerful.

The course EDHD 5260: Child Study and Observation for me was probably my most important piece out of the whole program, because it really showed me how you could delve into the life of a child and apply that knowledge to working with other children. Now I’ve come full circle. I’ve been able to do a bit of consulting for Boulder Journey School, and I get to spend time with the group of children I had as infants who are about to graduate from PreKindergarten. Logan was my child study, and it took him just a couple of times of seeing me again, and talking a little bit with him, for him to remember me. Just the other day I was spending time in his classroom with a small group and sharing stories about when they were little. We were laughing, and Logan was sitting on my lap. He put his arm on my shoulder, and I just thought, “Wow! This is the best ever!” So I would say my favorite memory is just building that connection with the infants and getting to feel how meaningful it was for both them and me.

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

Last night is a perfect example. I went to a site that, a year ago, was ready to shut down. I worked there for a couple of months last year, and they made some changes that the whole staff seems really excited about. They’re going to go through the Colorado Shines process, and so I was able to meet with each of the three teaching teams last night. These were teachers who previously felt like they had to be doing things in pretty traditional ways. I met with each team for just 25 minutes and spent the time diving into learning through play. We talked, and we played with materials. I tried to help them see the things they were good at and use those strengths as inspiration to set goals. By the end of the evening, I saw so many flickers of excitement. It was beautiful. I got to spark that interest for them, get them excited about it. Now I get to go back and support them through the process. I was driving home last night and just had this thought, “Oh, yes! This is why I do what I do!”

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I think I’m most proud of the fact that I’m capable of conducting trainings. I wasn’t very confident in front of groups for a long time. I have always had trouble with auditory processing, so sometimes, when I say things, my words get all jumbled, and it takes me a little bit to recover. As I’ve been doing more trainings, I find that I can kind of incorporate my challenges and be honest about them. This brings some laughter to the group, but it’s also a platform to talk about the experience of young children when they are first learning to communicate. I realize that the things that I was most fearful about and embarrassed by are things that have been helping me build my confidence, and I love it.

 

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

I am most passionate about interactions and relationships. Whether it’s teachers interacting with the children, or directors, or parents, I just love getting to support meaningful interaction and see social and emotional development at all different levels. I also want to leave readers with the words “anything is possible!”. Whatever you think you want to do or be a part of, don’t let anybody talk you out of it. Go for it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Tiana Ibarra

Tiana graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2015. She is now the Right Start Program Manager at Early Childhood Options in Dillon, Colorado, which taps into her passion for professionalizing the early childhood education field. In addition to reading her perspectives below, we encourage you to check out other innovative programs in Colorado mountain communities that are using public funding to support early childhood education.

 

Where has your journey taken you since graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

I spent two lovely years teaching 3-5 year olds at Silverthorne Elementary School, part of Summit School District. I became a mother to my little boy, Sage, on May 8, 2017. I was fortunate to be able to stay home with him for four months. Upon returning to work, I accepted a position working for Early Childhood Options. The program I manage, Right Start, is a voter-approved, tax-funded initiative, designed to improve quality, availability, and affordability of early care and learning for Summit County families. Through this initiative, I get to work on issues of recruitment and retention of quality early childhood educators and family child care providers. After completing my Master’s Degree and Teaching Certificate through the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program, it is exciting for me now to get to support other educators in Summit County who are interested in advancing their educations.

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

My current role requires me to look at a great deal of data, which has not always been my strong suit. However, the BJS TEP taught me to think outside of the box, think on a grand scale, and think like an advocate. In my short time as Program Manager, I have brought in new systems and ideas. I have also begun finding new ways of marketing the Right Start Project, and I think I built my capacity for this type of thinking during my time in the program.

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

I love that I get to be part of helping teachers feel appreciated and helping them stay in the field they love. I also enjoy that I have a great deal of flexibility in my job, as the folks I work with are very open-minded. I can bring new ideas to the table, and they are always welcomed and encouraged, which helps keep me energized and dedicated.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

By far, I’d say my favorite memory was the trip to study in Reggio Emilia, Italy. It was the first time I travelled overseas, which was thrilling, and it was also incredible to see the schools in action. Leading up to the trip, we learned about many aspects of the Reggio Approach, and experimented with translating those ideas into our various practicum settings. The trip to Reggio Emilia provided us with the opportunity to see how the educators there implemented what we had been learning about. This truly empowered and inspired me!

Tiana and her colleague Amie enjoying Lake Como, Italy, during their personal cultural study days after visiting Reggio Emilia.

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I am definitely most proud of graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program. That was the most challenging and rewarding year of my life, and sometimes I look back and cannot believe I did it. I completed the program while employed at a school in Breckenridge, which required a lot of traveling on my part. I had to stay organized, extremely focused, and take the experience one day at a time, but the program administrators and instructors were really supportive. It was crazy at times, but I feel so proud that I did it.

(left) While enrolled in the program, Tiana and her class of toddlers regularly went on excursions to explore the Breckenridge community, as shown in this photo. (right) Tiana, pictured with her husband, Justin, on her graduation day.

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

I love that I get to be part of an organization like Early Childhood Options because they are so incredibly dedicated to the community. Through this job, I feel like I’m truly making an impact on the educators, families, and children in Summit County. I also have a dream of opening my own early education center someday, and I am learning new skills every day that I believe will help me make my dream a reality. I feel like no matter my next steps, I will be better prepared because of my time with this wonderful organization.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Kyle Mckay

Kyle graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2013. After a bit of time spent on the east coast, he moved back to Colorado, and now we are very proud to call him one of our Mentor Teachers at Boulder Journey School in Boulder, Colorado. Kyle brings energy, laughter, and passion to the school’s faculty. We invite you to check out his unique perspectives below.

Where has your journey taken you since graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

After graduating I moved to Durham, North Carolina to teach at a small private school. There I found the opportunity to grow as an educator, but the experience also gave me a much larger perspective on where my professional career should lead. The leadership style of the school I worked for did not fit well with my personal philosophy, which was very eye-opening for me. Keeping my professional goals in mind, as well as my love for the outdoors and rock climbing, I returned to Colorado, where I was hired as a Mentor Teacher at Boulder Journey School. I jumped in with both feet to work in a toddler classroom (an age much younger than my comfort level). In the fall of 2017, I began my third year with the same group of children as a Prekindergarten Teacher. The opportunity to stay with the same group of children and families for three years has been breathtakingly amazing, to say the least. Together we have built a foundation of love, trust, and development that I am positive will have a long lasting effect on both them and me. This past year, I also jumped into a new role at Boulder Journey School as the Outdoor Specialist for the entire school. This role, while new and developing, allows me to work with individual classrooms across the school to expand our collective thinking about outdoor education.

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

Before I entered the Teacher Education Program, I was a classroom teacher for six years. During those six years I certainly held a high regard for the child, their development, and being a responsive teacher, but I was only scratching the surface. While in the program, and in the years since, I have developed a much deeper understanding of early education. The lens through which I approach my teaching is now focused on observation, documentation, and continued scaffolding. Being a part of the Teacher Education Program surrounded me with philosophical conversations, rich in practice and theory, that ultimately shaped who I am as an educator today. I am slower in my practice, allow for a healthy partnership with our school’s teaching teams. I navigate my days with intention and purpose. Realizing where I was before the program and reflecting on my growth as an educator, it is obvious that the Teacher Educator Program played an integral role in my development.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

I am sure that a lot of people who go through the program will say that their favorite part was the trip to Italy. It was rich in beauty and educational dialogue, and of course had plenty of tasty meals along the way. While Italy was amazing, my favorite memory was participating in the Boulder Journey School Summer Conference. Before the conference, I was feeling mentally drained, stressed about my graduate school work, and had slumped into a sense that everything we were doing at Boulder Journey School was normal. At the conference, I was quickly reminded that what we do here is absolutely special. Hearing from my colleagues, exploring the environments of each classroom, and talking with the conference participants was simply amazing. It was as if I awoke with a new breath of energy, at exactly the time that I needed it the most!

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

Each morning I have the right to come to work and be a part of an amazing profession. I get to be present when natural developments occur, laugh and smile about silly jokes and comments, and continue to expand my own mindset about what appropriate care and education truly is. Working in my current role is also a process of trial and error, through partnering with the children in what they think, do, and say. Because of this, my own thinking simply isn’t able to become stagnant, and this really brings me the most joy of all!

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I am proudest of my own personal growth. The way that I approached working with children after receiving my undergraduate degree to now is totally different. In my professional career I have rarely said “no” to an opportunity that would bring me growth, and it has been an amazing journey. It has allowed me to teach all over this country, and most recently, I got to present the work of my classroom at the World Forum on Early Care and Education in New Zealand. I hope that my accomplishments are always growing, adapting, and flowing.

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

I am most passionate about outdoor education. I have always been a person who is the most comfortable outdoors, so I am so excited and thrilled to move my professional focus in this direction. I have loved learning and understanding how beautiful environments can be the third teacher while indoors. Now, in my role as Outdoor Specialist, I get to bring that understanding outdoors. Through this work, I hope to contribute to the research on why the outdoors are vitally important in early education. Also, moving in this direction has rejuvenated my energy and focus in my role as Mentor Teacher.

 

 

 

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Sorrell Redford

Sorrell graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2016. She is now the Pre-K/Early Childhood Director at Estes Park Elementary School, part of Estes Park School District R-3. This rural Colorado public school has an extremely diverse population, and Sorrell has used this as an opportunity to create really interesting and innovative learning experiences that involve the entire community. In addition to her perspectives, offered below, we encourage you to follow her journey via Instagram @reggio_love_colorado

Where has your journey taken you since graduating the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

Since graduating from the BJS TEP I have been on a journey to find a career that I love! During my time at Boulder Journey School I realized that I wanted to work with children in my own community. My husband and I live in the mountains outside Estes Park, and I wanted to work with children that I saw in my everyday life and children to whom I felt connected. There is only one public elementary school in Estes Park, so I set my sights on getting hired there. I went through 5 grueling interviews and was finally told that I would not be offered a job as a teacher until I gained special education experience. However, the school hired me as a special education paraprofessional, which was indeed a beneficial experience because I had not previously worked with children with special needs. Three months after I started work as a Paraprofessional, the preschool teacher quit unexpectedly, which opened the door for me to be hired for the job that I initially applied for.

I began as the Preschool Director just three months after being hired as a Paraprofessional. This is the position I am currently in, and I absolutely love it! I have a morning and afternoon class with 13 students in each, 4 days a week, with Mondays for planning. It is a public preschool program, so there is a lot to know, but I am navigating my way through Licensing, Teaching Strategies Gold and the Colorado Preschool Program. I have a huge amount of freedom. I have implemented the Reggio approach into our daily lives, and I am having so much fun with it. I re-designed the environment and am seeing the results. The children are thriving! Our program is play based and our classroom environment plays an important role in the children’s learning.

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

My education in the BJS TEP prepared me for my current role in ways I could never have foreseen. I learned that my power as an educator lies in my strengths, which I have identified as creativity and advocacy. I use these strengths every day in my career, and these were traits I did not know I possessed until my time at Boulder Journey School.

During the BJS TEP, I was encouraged to take professional risks, which helped me discover my teaching style. Advocacy is something I had not considered to be part of a teaching role until the Teacher Education Program. Learning about advocating for students, for preschool, and for yourself as a professional was very powerful. Being an advocate includes being professional and treating other teachers as professionals. Creating mutual respect between all educators is really important if you want to raise up the profession and make positive changes in education.

The BJS TEP also taught me how to bring creativity into every aspect of my career. There are many ways to view creativity. It is easy for me to be creative in the classroom, whether I am setting up provocations, designing art projects or putting up documentation, but it can be difficult for me to be creative in other, less obvious ways. For example, being able to think of creative ways to communicate and engage parents is essential, as is thinking of creative ways to reach special education students and communicate with the various specialists with whom I work. It is difficult as a teacher to take on so many responsibilities, and I feel like creativity is essential for problem solving, which is a large part of my job.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

My favorite memory from the Boulder Journey School program are from the course ECED: Introduction to Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum. During this course and at the end of a long day, I was trying to think of an engaging provocation. I decided to fill a plastic container with water, leaves, and rocks. The next morning, the children found it and turned it into a pond. The children played in the pond every day for several weeks, and I studied engagement as part of my DAC. It was incredible how the pond grew and changed. It started in a tiny container, and then grew into a larger container. The children filled it with all different materials. Some days it looked like a real pond with turtles, frogs, and leaves. Other days, they added sand and dinosaurs, and it looked like a scene from Jurassic Park. I learned so much from observing the children’s play in the pond. It was a sensory experience, it encouraged empathy, it encouraged social play, it created opportunities for imagination, it provoked sharing, and through this play children built friendships.

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

The children bring me so much joy! Every day there are special moments where my heart feels full, and I don’t think I would feel this way in any other profession. Last week I watched a 5 year old girl cleaning the face of one of the 3 year old special education students. It was such a gentle and kind exchange, and it made me remember why children are so amazing. They don’t judge each other or label each other. My students remind me to be a kind person, and I think working with children makes me a better person, more reflective and less judgmental. The children also make me laugh, even when I am feeling frustrated, sad, or exhausted, which is pretty wonderful!

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I am extremely proud of completing my Master’s Degree and then pursuing a career in early education. I use what I learned through my Master’s everyday, and that is a really great feeling. I am especially proud of how professional I am when communicating with families. I have to interview every family who applies for a preschool space at my school to make sure they are eligible for public preschool. I have to ask difficult some questions. I have had conversations about why families moved from Mexico to Estes Park, I have had conversations with parents who use drugs, and I have had conversations with openly racist families. However, I am proud of how the BJS TEP prepared me for this, and I am constantly thinking back to all I learned in the course EDFN 5010: Social Foundations and Cultural Diversity in Urban Education. I also think back to the 100 Languages of Children and how this relates to parents, not just children. It helps me look at situations from parents’ points of view and try to understand their situation, which can be very challenging, but also very rewarding.

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

I am currently working on transforming our playground into a natural outdoor classroom, which I am very excited about. Our playground is currently an old plastic structure which has been vandalized. I believe the children deserve a higher quality environment, so I met with my Principal and the Head of Maintenance to present my ideas. I was very nervous, and to prepare, I researched playground safety, maintenance, and cost. I successfully persuaded them that a fully natural playground was the direction to go, and they gave me the go-ahead to have the old playground torn out and to begin working on creating a new one made of wood and stone. I have applied for two very large grants, and I should hear about them very soon. I am also involving students in the design of the new playground, and the company who will hopefully be installing and helping design the new playground is the Natural Playgrounds Company. They are amazing!