Council Letter | Investing in Learning and Wellness for Our Teachers

July 25, 2023

Dear Colleagues,

A South Jersey school district recently took a novel approach to helping teachers improve their classroom practice. The Haddon Heights School District in Camden County held a nontraditional professional development day in which 130 teachers attended sessions touting health, wellness, art, relaxation and fun. Teachers played Fortnite and other video games, engaged in music therapy, practiced yoga, lifted weights and participated in self-esteem building workshops. There were also sessions involving board games, art, dance, sound healing and therapy dogs to help the teachers de-stress.

The Haddon Heights teachers had a blast as they learned to take better care of themselves so they could take better care of the children they serve. And you’ll also have fun if you’re joining us at our sold-out Early Educators Leadership Conference this fall. While we won’t be featuring video games and therapy dogs, our Health and Wellness Expo will give you a chance to get pampered, learn new practices for self-care and enjoy all that’s good for the body, spirit and mind. We’ll also have special breaks for you to learn about power poses and healthy snacks to boost your energy. And you can let loose at our dance party, an event that will pay homage to Houston, home to space exploration and NASA.

Professional development should also be fun, according to William White, who will lead our Men in ECE panel at the conference. As director of My Brother’s Teacher, he brings young Black men into the early learning profession by providing scholarships, mentoring and mental health support. White also keeps the men engaged and entertained, as you’ll see when you read about him in this issue. “We have the men do fun activities like building rocket ships or conducting science experiments with young children,” he says. “We’ve taken over 500 people to football games. We’ve taken over 200 people to baseball games, the aquarium and the zoo. In addition, we hold monthly meetings, where we talk about big topics that concern the brothers, like the grief some of them felt after losing family members to COVID.”

The pandemic increased our field’s concern about the health of young children, according to Hester Paul, national director of Eco-Healthy Child Care. And you’ll learn from her how to guard children from environmental hazards while they’re having fun in your classroom. “Cutting down on children’s exposure to substances like lead, mercury and unsafe plastics cuts down on absences and developmental disorders,” Paul explains in the sessions she presents nationwide. And “teachers are eager to learn about these hazards because they love children,” she says in her feature story this month. “Many teachers are upset because they didn’t get this information early in their careers, and that’s why I’m partnering with the Council on ways to make environmental health a part of professional development for teachers.”

And you’ll be learning more from Paul at the conference, where she’ll talk about making systems changes to safeguard our youngest children. You’ll also have a chance to meet the staff of the Council Alumni Network and find out about the exciting, fun events they have planned for the coming months. Get a preview of what’s ahead by reading our blog on the great benefits of belonging to CAN, including chances to present research, enjoy peer support and grow as a professional in ECE.

CAN brings a sense of community to the goal of giving children high-quality early learning, and we want more folks to take up the cause by attending our CDA webinars in coming months. We also need school districts, states and community colleges to join the Council in giving educators the professional development they deserve. “Our children must have qualified teachers, so we all need to partner in building more career pathways for professionals in ECE. Let’s serve our children by serving our teachers and helping them earn their CDAs,” Dr. Moore pleads in his blog. Read it to feel more empowered, encouraged and engaged in your professional growth. Hearing from Dr. Moore is always a blast.

From your most devoted partner,
The Council for Professional Recognition

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