IMG_0015This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.

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Hello my name is Dona Anderson and I am honored to have been asked to share my story.

I am currently employed at Square One. Located in Springfield, Massachusetts, we have several sites, however my classroom is housed in a pilot site on Main Street in downtown Springfield. I am currently in my 15th year in the educational field. I have also been a Hair Stylist for 26 years, but due to my dedication and love of educating our future scholars, I only work in the salon on weekends.

What’s important about my work: (1) is that every child who walks into my classroom feels welcomed and valued as an individual, (2) that every child feels safe and secure; without security learning can’t take place, and (3) ensuring that these young scholars know that learning is fun, so that they will go on and become striving citizens in their communities. The most important thing about my work is seeing the smile on a child’s face when they have learned the letters in their name, or a color, or shape, and knowing that I was privileged to have helped create that smile.

One of the many ways that I support my families is by greeting everyone individually every morning. I am there to support them and answer any questions they have or just listen to a concern or a happy occasion that occurred over the weekend or the night before.

I also have a family engagement night every month for my families. During this time, families can socialize with one another, ask questions about the curriculum, see all of the activities that their children have done, or just come and enjoy the refreshments. I also take this opportunity to show families how to use our curriculums’ “Family Space” website where they can find information.

As an educator I am most proud of being the person who “jump starts” these little scholars’ excitement about learning. Letting them know that learning is important to their growth and that it can be a lot of fun.

Recently, I went to the laundromat to do my laundry. When I arrived I heard a familiar voice and decided to search that little voice out after I put my laundry into the machine. I was correct: it was a former scholar of mine. I said hello to her mother and together we decided to surprise her. I said, hello “J,” and seeing her face light up when she saw me was priceless. Not to mention the hug and big kiss on the cheek I received. She started helping me by putting the money into the machine for me and then reading me her favorite book. Occasions like this make me proud to be an Early Education teacher.

I am currently enrolled in a Master’s Degree Program at the University of Bay Path, located in Longmeadow Massachusetts. I am studying to be an Applied Behavior Analyst. My purpose for earning this degree is to give children who display challenging behaviors the opportunity to remain in their classrooms so that they can receive the same quality education as their peers. I will help teachers develop Functional Behavioral Assessments (FBAs) that will make learning fun for these children and help them become positive members of their classrooms.

Policy Holders should know that we are not “babysitters.” Real teaching and learning occurs every day in our classrooms (in a fun way). More importantly, they should know that we are the “foundation layers.” We are the ones who get children (who are our future) excited about learning. We open hearts and minds, and we teach parents how to effectively communicate and trust the people who educate their little scholars. Early Education is where learning first takes place, and I am proud to be a part of it!