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.
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.
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!
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.