Career Story: Childhood Literacy Specialist

Childhood Literacy Specialist

Job Title: Early Literacy Facilitator

Type of Company: The primary goal of my agency is to be an agent of change to improve school systems' teaching of reading. I work with the early childhood division, where I work with pre-school programs which focus on the foundational skills needed to become a successful reader.

Education: BA, secondary education/history and government, Antioch College •• M.Ed, Child Study, Tufts University •• Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Administration & Supervision, Wheelock College

Previous Experience: I began as a Head Start teacher for 2 years, then after master's degree I was child development specialist at a community mental health center for 12 years. I returned to the same Head Start Program as director for 4 years, then returned to graduate school. At a state agency for childcare I was an administrator working on policy, professional development for child care workers and research issues for 12 years. I was also director of early literacy in an Americorps program for 3 years.

Job Tasks: I observe in classrooms (serving 3, 4 and 5 year-olds) and follow that with a meeting with the teacher or teaching team if possible. We discuss ways to improve the classroom, new strategies to work with individual children, and adaptations to the curriculum. Sometimes I model a lesson so the teacher can observe me working with the children. Periodically, I design and present a professional development workshop to teachers or assistants on some aspect of the curriculum or strategy for managing behavior of the children. This requires early childhood education knowledge, experience, research and good presentation skills. When in the office, I create curriculum materials or tools to assist the classroom teachers in their delivery of the packaged curricula which they are using. Part of my job is to stay current with the research and cutting edge practices in the field. I need to read scholarly articles, reports and books on the topic. Occasionally I find an outstanding article and write a summary of the research and offer suggestions for practical application in the classroom.

My many years of working with young children, their parents and their teachers and caregivers turn out to be my most valuable resource. I draw on these experience every day when working with teachers.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is helping teachers figure out a strategy that works for them and the children. Successful teachers can look and act very differently -- but it works for them. I like sharing a strategy that one teacher created with another teacher who uses it successfully. I sometime feel like a bee going from one flower to another pollinating it with good ideas. I love my time in the classroom and working with preschoolers, at times I am having so much fun, I think to myself "I can't believe that I am getting paid to have so much fun playing. "

The worst part is writing reports and documenting my meetings with the teachers.

Job Tips: Work in a variety of programs, with different age groups. Use every opportunity to observe in a variety of programs. When you find someone from whom you can learn, follow that person and hopefully they will mentor you. I have seen young people starting out in this field who have great potential but they are working with a mediocre teacher who will not help them grow. Some programs will support staff development and learning opportunities, other will not. Make sure you seek employment at those programs where you can learn and grow--even if the salary is slightly lower.

Additional Thoughts: I love the field of early childhood education. There are many avenues to explore: teaching typical and atypical, advantaged and disadvantaged, gifted and challenged children, working with the parents, child advocacy, state and federal policy, supervision, training, and administration. But it always comes back to the children. They are the reason why I do it and they are amazing!

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