When I first started working at Teachstone, I had the pleasure of supporting a group of MyTeachingPartner coaches working in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Now, let me tell you, this was no ordinary group of coaches and I knew it as soon as I was greeted at the airport. Within the first ten minutes of meeting Paula Polito, my suspicion was confirmed.
Then I met her partner in crime, Sarintha Stricklin. Again, immediate confirmation, these ladies were making waves. Through our professional relationship and the years I have been lucky enough to support them as they implemented CLASS-based professional development, I got to witness their dedication to constant improvement. And, as a bonus, make some really cool New Orleans friends. These women serve in leadership positions on numerous boards at the local and state levels in their constant effort to change how Louisiana implements and measures quality in early education.
To learn more about Louisiana's journey through CLASS based professional development, check out the video of our InterAct keynote:
It was an honor getting the call to serve as the keynote speaker for InterAct 2017. While I knew I had spent the past five years embracing CLASS, being asked to serve as the keynote speaker was exciting and a bit intimidating at the same time.
It wasn’t until I arrived in Austin and began to see the passion and commitment from the 200 individuals in the room that I truly began to understand the depth and impact Teachstone was having around the United States and beyond. Having the opportunity to share the scope of work that has been exhibited in Louisiana was exciting. Allowing others to understand the possibilities that exist through Teachstone and the effect it can have on children was eye-opening for so many individuals.
As mentioned in our presentation by my colleague, Sarintha Stricklin, it was unique for Louisiana to be on the forefront of creating positive change in early care and education. The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) adopted CLASS in 2012 and has committed to helping sites and teachers create more effective interactions for every child served in Louisiana. With the support of LDOE we have been able to layer levels of training, myTeachstone, Making the Most of Classroom Interactions (MMCI), and MTP for so many of our teachers. Our teachers are better because of it and in turn we are able to prepare all children for Kindergarten.
In a world where so many struggles exist, I can only hope that Teachstone continues empowering teachers to provide high quality interactions for all children.
Paula Polito has been in the childcare industry for over 23 years working in a variety of capacities, primarily as the Owner/Director of a five star quality child care center in Greater New Orleans. Mrs. Polito currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Louisiana Department of Education as well as on the Core Leadership team for the Jefferson Parish Early Childhood Collaborative. Paula is a CLASS trainer, credentialed MTP Coach and reliable in the Toddler and Pre-K CLASS tools.
Our work with Teachstone over the past three years has been exciting and incredibly productive; thanks in large part to the high energy, dedicated, and professional team at Teachstone that support us. The Jefferson Parish Early Childhood Collaborative took a huge leap of faith with their initial investment in MyTeachingPartner in the summer of 2014. Since then, we have not looked back—but moved full steam ahead. We now joke that our leadership team members have every Teachstone credential known to man. Our next goal is to expand that expertise in CLASS with our elementary school principals, child care directors, and Head Start specialists. While we have miles to go, we are proud of the work that we have accomplished to enhance the quality of instructional interactions for all young children in South Louisiana.
Dr. Sarintha Stricklin has worked in early childhood education for 25+ years in a variety of roles including consultant, trainer, administrator, researcher, faculty member, and classroom teacher. She has managed major federal- and state-funded grants & projects, supervised teams of professionals, published peer-reviewed manuscripts, and served in leadership positions and consulting roles across national and local levels. Currently, she consults across a variety of early care and education programs and serves as the Director of the Jefferson Collaborative Network in south Louisiana.
Can we talk about structure? When CLASS entered my life, I was 20 years into my career in the field of early childhood education. What I remember most about that initial training, besides the nervousness about an impending reliability test, was a sense of relief. Structure, including State and program standards, curriculum, materials in the classroom, and approaches to childcare and pedagogy, had dominated my working hours. CLASS was a lot to learn, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air. Observing with CLASS meant I could set aside my obsession with all things structural – which encompassed my thoughts every time I walked into an early childhood classroom.
Decades of evidence indicate that high-quality early childhood education positively affects children. Yet studies reveal that too few programs implement high-quality programming. To date, improvement efforts have primarily focused on what occurs within the classroom. The Ounce of Prevention Fund (Ounce), in partnership with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (UChicago Consortium), strives to broaden the focus of improvement efforts beyond the classroom to organizational conditions that support teachers and the relationships among staff, children, and families.