When DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, along with DOE Secretary Arne Duncan, announced the Preschool Development Grants competition as part of the Preschool for All in early February 2014, she asked for help. Her request? That all of us in the early childhood community find our roles in the grant process and assist applicants to ensure the best possible quality programs are developed and expanded for preschoolers. She called on those able to step up if able to provide “wraparound help”—and Teachstone is heeding that call.
Whether we work directly with children, support teachers, create regional or state policy, or build professional development programs, it can be easy to let our day-to-day responsibilities trump the significance of our work. As Teachstone’s Product Marketing Director, I spend time each week observing and talking with our market—teachers, T/TAs, center directors, program directors, policymakers—and trying to understand their challenges. Without fail, I am always moved by these colleagues’ hard work and commitment to supporting young children; these conversations are what make my job rewarding. But during these interviews, I often notice that these individuals aren’t quite as moved by their grit as I am. They are worn down by bureaucracy or funding challenges, in a routine, or just tired from years of demanding and often thankless work.
Summer is in full swing in Charlottesville. The kids are in camp and the grant writing season has officially arrived. Like many of you, I have been searching the Internet, talking to colleagues, and using any fortune telling powers I have at my fingertips to determine when the Preschool Development Grants will—as we say in grant land—"drop."
With mixed emotions, I just put my children on the bus for the last time for this school year. Part of me is happy to have a brief reprieve from the 7 a.m. walk to the bus stop and to begin the extended evenings of swimming, bike riding, and neighborhood walks. The other side of me is sad to see another year ending and to realize I know have a third grader and a seventh grader(!). I think to myself—like every mother does this time of year—where has the time gone?
After trekking from various cities throughout the country, my colleagues and I finally made it to the 41st Annual Head Start Conference, held last week in Long Beach, CA. I’m happy to report that Teachstone truly made the most of its time throughout the week—delivering presentations (5 of them, whew!), attending presentations, and hosting two events.
Neuroscience research has repeatedly confirmed that exposure to toxic stress—inescapable, traumatic experiences, such as chronic abuse or neglect—disrupt the development of healthy stress response systems in the brain and can lead to serious long-term consequences for children. (See this excellent series from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child for more information.)
I just had the opportunity to spend two days with Head Start leaders at the National Head Start Association’s Leadership Institute in our nation’s capitol. I grew up in the DC Metropolitan area, so this was like a "coming home" for me. As a former Head Start director, this was also like a professional homecoming, as I mingled with former colleagues, Head Start directors, and executive directors.
About a year ago, I attended the National Head Start Association’s Winter Leadership Institute in Washington, DC, and had the opportunity to sit in on an Instructional Support workshop given by my colleague, Sara Beach. It was one of the first times Teachstone® had delivered this type of a session, and based on the packed house and overwhelmingly positive evaluations, we knew we had stumbled across a real need in the Head Start community.