In honor of Black History Month and as part of our ongoing Teacher Spotlight series, we recently asked the CLASS Community to nominate outstanding Black educators who are making a difference in their schools. With over 200 nominations, it was certainly difficult to pick just one winner, but Talise Owens-Hundley stood out. Talise has been teaching for 15 years and is currently a lead teacher at Next Door in Milwaukee, WI. The program focuses on getting children ready for school with academic and social-emotional learning as well as a range of health services– at no cost to their families.
Talise was nominated by her coach of three years and now colleague, Jill Udell. Jill wrote, “Talise is the most reflective practitioner I have ever worked with. Her willingness to look at her practice with rigor and fearlessness is motivated by a sincere desire to improve her practice and positively impact her students. I have witnessed her students thrive under her instruction and care. Talise has demonstrated a deep commitment to supporting her at-risk students’ social, emotional, and cognitive development. She always goes the extra mile in her lesson planning and crafting her pedagogy to support her students’ abilities as critical thinkers.”
I reached out to Talise to learn more about her reflective practice and what strategies she’d recommend for other ECE teachers. Here are just a few practices she recommends:
On being a reflective teacher
Even after 15 years of teaching, Talise believes it’s important to reflect on her teaching practice and continue to grow and improve. Knowing how important early childhood educational experiences are for her children, she wants to make sure she’s doing everything possible to meet their needs. “In the field that we're working in early childhood education, I just think it’s really important that we continue to educate ourselve. Things are changing so rapidly, there's always room for growth.” Talise know’s it’s not just a matter of teaching skills, but, “we're here to make sure the children know that they're loved, that they are somebody, they’re valued. We are here for them and we’re here for their families, as well to help build resilience.”
Thank you Talise, Jill, and all of the other educators who were nominated, for your dedication to improving children’s outcomes.
The time has come for hard conversations.
That’s the feedback we have been receiving from educators across the country. There are plenty of tough conversations educators are trained, taught, or feel equipped to handle with children and families - gently bringing up a developmental concern, facilitating a disagreement between students, or explaining what happened with the classroom goldfish are all part of a day in the life. But in the last year, since the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, educators are increasingly asking for help in communicating more comfortably with young children about diversity and difference.
We’re still soaking up the wisdom shared by our many, many excellent speakers at the spring 2021 InterAct Summit. From its inception, Teachstone has been an organization based in research. Because the CLASS is reliable and valid, teachers and programs trust it to give meaningful, accurate, and actionable information. To learn more about the current work being done in the field, we invited co-founder Bob Pianta to give an update on new research findings.
I was supposed to be an architect, instead I was a teacher of young children; it felt like my calling.
When I started my coursework, they tasked me with visiting multiple classrooms. It overwhelmed me when in some classrooms, children were crying, teachers were frustrated, and no one seemed to enjoy the day. I thought I had made a mistake. Thankfully, I had a professor who inspired me to continue. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the behaviors I observed in both children and teachers, the professor charged me to uncover the root of those behaviors.
And so, my journey to support social-emotional development began.
At Teachstone, we are all in on early learning. The research shows us that, with the help of effective educators, there is so much potential to build a strong foundation for children’s learning well before elementary school. But some research, including the Head Start Impact Study and the research on Tennessee’s voluntary pre-K, has complicated the story. Researchers found that in some cases, gains made in early childhood education seemed to fade out by around third grade.
Follow-up research has added to the narrative.