Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children
Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) has an exciting, new certificate program.

The Leadership in Early Education and Care program trains “students who are already working in early childhood centers” as directors, supervisors as well as students who aspire to be leaders.

“This innovative leadership certificate was designed to meet a known gap in degree options for the ECE field,” according to Charlene Mara, QCC’s Early Childhood Education Program coordinator.

The program’s classes are:

• Administration in Early Education and Care

• Supervision, Coaching and Mentoring in Early Childhood Settings

• Communication for Collaboration

• Advocacy and Ethics for Social Justice in Early Care and Education, and

• Seminar and Field Experience: Leadership in Early Education and Care

The courses are paid for by the Educator and Provider Support Grant, which is funded by the Department of Early Education and Care.

The first four program participants graduated last month. And another 20 or so additional students are expected to earn certificates during the 2016-2017 school year.

Because of a savvy partnership between QCC and Worcester State University (WSU), students who already have bachelor’s degrees can apply all of the leadership program’s 15 credits toward a master’s degree in early childhood leadership at WSU.

“We were very happy to partner with QCC to provide this opportunity for professionals in the field. These courses beautifully align with the professional development mission of WSU’s Center for Effective Teaching, which administers the partnership,” Carol Donnelly, chair of WSU’s Department of Education, told us.


Professors’ Perspectives

We reached out to professors who taught in the leadership program, and they shared their views of the compelling progress that students have made.

“For many of the students this was their first class in the certificate series. For some it was their first college class in more than 10 years,” Kim Davenport said. She taught the certificate program’s communications class, and she’s the managing director of Birth to 3rd Grade Alignment at Edward Street Child Services.

“Throughout the semester students gained confidence and skills as leaders and developed their voices as personal and professional advocates. They expanded their professional networks. They became more reflective practitioners. Students challenged themselves to approach problems with a wider perspective, pushed themselves to lead difficult conversations, and took on leadership roles within their programs. They also expanded their thinking and support networks beyond the walls of their current programs and began to understand the significant role they play both within their center systems and in the broader field of early education.

“And they created change. Each created personal change and through their course work instigated change within their organizations. They amplified their voices and took the initial bold steps to be a catalyst for the change they were seeking for children, families, their programs, and themselves.”

Greg Mullaney, an early education professor at QCC, added:

“We hoped, as a department, to start producing new leaders for the field of early education and care and we were rewarded with some amazing results. The students were so committed and extremely appreciative of the value and cost of the classes.”

“Students who might otherwise not be able to afford pursuing a Master’s degree found this option exciting. We attracted students from all over the state, not just the Worcester area. The work the students produced was exciting and demonstrated new leaders being born. The group who just completed the certificate and graduated last week developed and implemented amazing projects at their sites as part of their capstone class. For myself and my counterpart, Dr. Carlene Sherbourne, it was thrilling to watch them grow and become committed advocates for early education and care.”

Karen O’Neill, a QCC professor of Early Childhood Education who teaches Supervision, Coaching and Mentoring in Early Childhood Settings, explained:

“Leaders in early education and care programs have one of the toughest and most rewarding jobs in the world. Managing the individual needs of children, their families, and the staff that work with them is no small task, and yet it is absolutely critical that programs provide high quality environments for the safety, well-being, and education of young children. We cannot underestimate the importance of having programs that support the social and emotional development of young children. I believe one of the best ways to ensure this is by supporting and developing the adults that work with them.”

Students in her class “learn about the importance of clear communication, active listening, developing professional relationships, and setting goals. Students have an opportunity to practice their supervisory and mentoring skills by identifying a person to mentor over the course of the semester. The focus is on developing clear goals and measurable steps to guide this person in the process of their unique professional development.”

In addition: “Theories of adults as learners are explored and connected to the supervision and coaching process.

“Through this experience, I’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand, the growth and development of leaders emerging in the field. It is exciting to see the drive, passion, talents, as well as a strong commitment to providing high quality programs for young children and families. The ECE Leadership Certificate Program provides examples of best practices and sets a clear path for the very important and critical work that early childhood educators do!”

And from our own Amy O’Leary, director of the Early Education for All Campaign, who also taught Communication for Collaboration and Advocacy and Ethics for Social Justice in Early Care and Education in the program:

“What a thrill it is to be part of this innovative program and collaboration between Quinsigamond Community College and Worcester State. I am so impressed by the students and all they have accomplished. All I can say is, ‘Watch out world because here they come.’ The focus on leadership development is so critical for the early education and care field. In this program students learn more about the theory and the academic side of the topics, and then have an opportunity to practice and refine their skills. From speaking at legislative breakfasts, writing letters to the editor, developing testimony and creating an advocacy plan, these students have the ability and confidence to make a difference for the children and families in Massachusetts.”