While the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered school doors across the county, some educators remained in operation either in centers, in home-based programs, or through virtual platforms. Early childhood educators across the county rose to the call echoed by essential workers and continued to provide programming to children during these unprecedented times, sometimes at significant personal risk.
The pandemic continues to challenge how the early childhood education community provides services to children and their families. The focus has always been the whole child’s wellbeing, but now the risk of Coronavirus has added a new layer of intricacy.
The Doña Ana County Early Childhood Education Coalition, a part of the prenatal to career education initiative called the SUCCESS Partnership, has been working since last year to adapt their goals to meet currently identified needs within the early childhood community. The current focus is on three main goals: Children Are Born Into Healthy Homes, Children are Ready for School, and Early Childhood Education Workforce Is Supported. Action networks for the goals consist of community partners and organizations across the county who are actively involved in moving the needle forward and changing the perception of the early childhood workforce and the importance of early childhood education.
On Saturday, August 29th, the Early Childhood Education Workforce Is Supported Action Network delivered a webinar to over 60 educators from across southern New Mexico on the topic of providing quality face-to-face early childhood education during a pandemic. This Action Network consists of various professionals passionate about supporting and empowering the early childhood workforce, reversing the view that early childhood educators are babysitters, advocating for greater access to education and wages commensurate with their expertise and the value that they bring to our community.
The Action Network’s Co-Ambassadors are Dr. Betsy Cahill, Interim Director of the Glass Family Research Institute for Early Childhood Studies at New Mexico State University, and Dr. Rhianna Thomas, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education in the School of Teacher Preparation, Administration, and Leadership at New Mexico State University.
Dr. Thomas was instrumental in bringing together a panel of experts from various industry sectors to address local educators’ concerns as they began the new academic school year. In talking about the webinar, Dr. Thomas said: “Our Workforce is Supported Committee heard from local teachers that there was a need in the community for information on how to safely operate an early childhood center during a pandemic while still meeting the social and emotional needs of children. In early childhood education, we understand that relationships are the foundation for learning. Many teachers were concerned that keeping children socially distanced and avoiding touch would not help children build relationships or meet their social and emotional needs. To address these concerns, the Workforce is Supported Committee brought together health experts and early childhood center directors from various programs to share healthy practices and practical tips through a webinar format. The webinar was well-attended, even though it was on a Saturday morning. Our Southern New Mexico early childhood professionals came to the online format smiling and wishing each other well. They sent in important questions, and the panel answered them with their various expertise. This shows our early childhood community from the university to the home care provider are committed to the health, wellbeing, and education of young children during this pandemic and beyond.”
As the Assistant Director of Ngage New Mexico, I provide backbone support to the Early Childhood Workforce Is Supported Action Network and assist in braiding the work of this Action Network with the work of the broader SUCCESS Partnership. It is a privilege to work with a talented group of educators from various programs and sectors on the goal of elevating and empowering our early childhood workforce.
“Education Is A Shared Responsibility”, and supporting the workforce preparing our next generation is highly important and urgently needed.
About the SUCCESS Partnership:
The SUCCESS Partnership is an education initiative founded in 2013. It is a diverse group of over 100 cross-sector organizations comprised of parents, education professionals, nonprofit organizations, businesses, regional partners, and community leaders who are committed to providing education in Dona Ana County. The collaboration serves to achieve improved outcomes in education from prenatal to career readiness. The partnership is supported by the nonprofit organization, Ngage New Mexico.