Council Letter

February 25, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

We often fail to remember Black pioneers of the early childhood profession. Now, as we mark Black History Month, it’s a perfect time to honor Black teachers—both present and past—who have made the world a better place. One of them was Betsey Stockton, a former slave who set up Philadelphia’s first preschool for children of color in 1828. Another was Haydee Campbell, the first Black person to receive formal training in ECE. 1882, she became the principal of kindergarten programs for Black children in the public schools of Saint Louis, MO. And here in Washington, DC, memories still live on of Dorothy Howard, who set up the District’s first preschool for Black children in her home.

The Garden of Children School, which Howard ran from 1929 to 1961, was way ahead of its time as it embraced “early-start” concepts of education, teacher competence and warmth. Her pupils included the children of diplomats, university presidents and at least one Nobel Laureate. Parents were drawn by her conviction that preschool should be educational and not just some form of babysitting for families.

Howard succeeded in getting children as young as four to read. And this month, we also mark the birthday of another great champion of reading: LeVar Burton. He plays a starring role in our new white paper on Race, Reading and Representation. As producer and host of Reading Rainbow, he strived to turn all children into lifelong readers by sharing books that feature folks of diverse races and colors. “Representation is so important in the media we consume,” to show all children “you matter in this world,” as Burton points out. So, the books he’s read to young learners have ranged widely from Enemy Pie, a moving lesson on the rewards of making new friends, and Amazing Grace, about a young Black girl who wants to be Peter Pan in a school play, to anything by Dr. Seuss, his all-time favorite children’s author.

Tameka Donaldson is another big fan of Dr. Seuss, and we’ll be talking about her work this month as a PD Specialist and director of KinderCare in Grove City, OH. Tameka’s birthday happens to be March 2, the same as Dr. Seuss, and on that day each year, Tameka has her teachers read Green Eggs and Ham to the kids and then everyone drinks green milk. She also shows the milk of human kindness by serving the homeless and needy through her nonprofit Bridging the Community Together for Success.

A big part of any community’s future success depends on having competent teachers, and Jerry Graham has spent decades filling that need. As a training specialist for Navy child care programs, PD Specialist and lead consultant for Choices Early Learning, he lends his expertise to early childhood settings so they can help children reach their potential. “As an ECE professional, I’ve had the chance to stand before the canvas of the future and be one of the painters,” he says. And as he comes close to the end of his career, he wants to ensure excellence in ECE by passing the torch to the next generation of teachers.

The future of our field looks good so far, thanks to outstanding Black educators like those our readers nominated for recognition this month. They include teachers, trainers and center directors who’ve made the world better than they found it. And the Council is working to swell their ranks. We’ve recently received a grant from the Maryland State Department of Education to aid thousands of the state’s ECE educators in earning their CDA. The grant will lead to a larger, more diverse pool of qualified teachers and let them, too, paint the canvas of the future. These rising teachers will gain the skills to help children learn, have successful lives—and one day even make some history of their own.

Happy Black History Month,
The Council for Professional Recognition

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