Council Letter

October 24, 2023

Dear Colleagues,

Last year, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) introduced the Teachers are Leaders Act, bipartisan legislation to expand professional development and leadership growth opportunities for seasoned teachers. “Experience is often the best teacher, and that’s true for our educators as well,” he explained. “Empowering established educators to be leaders and mentors for other teachers is an effective and smart way to retain a high-quality teaching workforce.” So, “it is vital that we provide teachers with professional development opportunities to improve retention and create an extended network of support,” agreed Rep. Chuck Fleishman (R-TN), one of the co-sponsors of the bill on Capitol Hill.

Many state lawmakers also see the value of education, including Rep. David Henry Argosky LeBoeuf, who’s sponsored an act to rebuild the early childhood workforce in Massachusetts. “This legislation will create apprenticeship opportunities, allowing high school students and graduates to pursue their CDA,” said Council COO Andrew Davis this month when he testified before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Education. “The integration of CDA curricula into state apprenticeship programs establishes a seamless career pathway for aspiring educators and can transform our early education landscape.”

That was also the goal of our Early Educators Leadership Conference this month. The EELC took place in Texas, where they say everything’s bigger. And that was true for this year’s conference, as you’ll learn when you read Leadership in the Lone Star State. We had a bigger crowd than we’ve ever had before and we brought attendees some of the biggest names in our field: Michelle Kang, CEO of the National Association for the Education of Young Children; Natalie Vega O’Neil, president and CEO at Junior Achievement of Washington; and Dr. Leah Austin, president and CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute, who told attendees that “action is what leadership is about.”

And Zuly Vazquez, national manager of professional learning for Head Start, urges people to awaken the leader inside them to make an impact. “It’s something we all do each day, whether consciously or unconsciously,” she says. “A leader simply makes a stronger impact by uniting people around a common vision.” And her vision is to inspire teachers to be their best, she says when we profile her in this edition. As she works to reach this goal, Vazquez draws her resolve from people who inspired her in the past. “I have had amazing teachers who encouraged and believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself,” she says. “I have seen the power of mentoring and coaching many times in the course of my career.”

So has Waymond Hayes, another ECE leader who we feature this month. As director of early learning and youth development at the Detroit nonprofit Focus: HOPE, he fights poverty, prejudice and social injustice. Hayes is also the first male administrator to helm a Head Start all-male leadership academy consisting of an all-boys classroom with male teachers, who help the boys avoid pitfalls that can lead young men to fail in the tough neighborhood that Hayes serves. He, too, might have failed without Head Start, where he spent his early years and discovered his vocation. Now his focus is on giving community members the hope that they, too, can succeed with the services and the support Head Start provides.

Children who attend Head Start can go far, Dr. Moore shows us in his latest blog, marking Head Start Awareness Month. Head Start alums include Rep. Jahana Hayes, the first Black woman to serve Connecticut in Congress; Bernadine Futrell, deputy assistant secretary for equity and discretionary grants and support services at the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education; and Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, a staunch champion of the CDA. “These leaders make the news, but they haven’t forgotten the unsung heroes who launched them on the path to success,” as Dr. Moore points out. He knows our Head Start teachers are also leaders because they make an impact on communities and classrooms every day.

Happy Head Start Awareness Month,
The Council for Professional Recognition


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