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Amy O’Leary with Danielle Scanlon, Erin Vickstrom, Susan Norquist, Kristen Kelley, and Kristy Walley


Earlier this week, students from Quinsigamond Community College’s (QCC) Leadership in Early Education and Care program testified before the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care.

Accompanied by Amy O’Leary, director of our Early Education for All Campaign, the students share their experiences in the leadership program.

As we blogged a few weeks ago, QCC’s program “trains ‘students who are already working in early childhood centers’ as directors, supervisors as well as students who aspire to be leaders.”

“The courses are paid for by the Educator and Provider Support Grant, which is funded by the Department of Early Education and Care.” And students who already have bachelor’s degrees can apply the 15 credits that they earn in this program toward a master’s degree in early childhood leadership at Worcester State University.


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Testifying at the Board meeting


In the previous blog we shared the perspectives of the professors who teach in that program. This team we want to share the voices of the students who testified at the Board meeting. Here are excerpts from their testimonies.


Kristen Kelley 

“I have spent my entire adult career, just over 19 years now, as a professional in the field of early childhood education. I received my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Fitchburg State College (at the time) and MA public school teacher licensure in May 2000. I made a conscious decision, much to the dismay of my father, to join the private early childhood education sector. My father became extremely worried that I would not be able to support myself in such a profession. This work became my immediate passion; I cannot imagine myself every doing anything else.”

“In August of 2013 I came across a flyer for a new EEC Leadership Certificate program that was being introduced at QCC… I was excited about the program because I had spent the previous three months looking for an EEC master’s degree program that focused on the private early childhood sector rather than the public school system. I am overjoyed to announce that this coming December I will complete my master’s degree program. Because of the reduced cost of the QCC courses and reimbursements from my employer, this 34 credit degree will only cost me a total of approximately $1,150. Outside of the financial benefits, this program has enhanced my life both professionally and personally.

“The Communication for Collaboration course provided me with the skills I needed to create, nurture, and sustain positive team morale and overall work environment at our program.”

“It was the Advocacy and Social Justice in EEC course that made a major impact on me personally. During this course I chose to research the MA Department of Children and Families foster care system. This research presented me with two shocking statistics. First, in 2013 the number of children needing foster care homes outnumbered the number of foster homes available 2.25 to 1; and second the number of foster homes available declined nearly 34 percent between 1998 and 2013. As a result of my research I became devoted to advocating for improvements in this system as well as committed to becoming a foster parent myself. I am happy to announce that this past December my family and I welcomed a sibling pair into our home and will serve as their foster home as long as needed.”


Members of the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care
Members of the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care


Susan Norquist

“I have been an Education Coach for Little Sprouts in Brighton for 3 years. I am very excited to be here today and grateful for this opportunity to speak in front of you.

“I consider myself to be a part of an elite group of early education professionals who have had the opportunity to participate in the Leadership program. As you have already heard, it has made a significant impact on all of us. Each of us has become a leader, trailblazing our way into the field of Early Education and Care.

“For me personally, this program has prepared me to publicly speak of my passion and commitment to the profession. A few months ago, I was asked to speak at the WorcesterAEYC legislative breakfast. I spoke of how this leadership program prepared me to become an advocate for young children and their right for quality education. A few weeks later, I spoke at an all staff meeting for Little Sprouts in front of over 400 fellow employees. This was an opportunity for me to express my belief that if Massachusetts wants quality education for its young children then it must be connected with higher wages for educators.”

“My message today is this: Those you see before you today are just a handful of professionals that are enrolled in the leadership certificate program. There are many more, like me, who have been motivated to speak publicly, become advocates, and unleash our inner leader. We have been prepared by the very best in the field. In turn, we are excited to be the next early education leaders. And we are ready.”


Danielle Scanlon

“I am the Program Director for the Preschool and School Age Program at Worcester Comprehensive Education and Care in Worcester. I have been working in the field for about 7 years. Before taking the Leadership classes, I was teaching and wanted to become a director at some point, but did not know how to achieve that. I would never think about speaking in public, I would run out of the room terrified.

“While getting my master’s degree through Worcester State University, I was taking the Leadership classes. The Mentoring and Coaching class taught me how to work with a coworker and find where they wanted to improve. Since the improvement was personal to the teacher, there was positive change to their teaching practices that I assisted with.

“The Advocacy class taught me how to turn an idea into an action to make a change. The Administration class taught me what it takes to be an effective director and to run a program properly. The Communications class gave me the skills to speak in a crowded room about the importance of what we, as early educators, do.

“This past January I became a director and I had to put these ideas into practice. Through the Leadership program, I gained the necessary tools to become an effective leader. I continually work with my staff and ask them where they want to improve, I encourage them to speak about what they feel needs a change, and we work together to modify a practice. I constantly advocate publicly about the importance of what early educators do. Through the Leadership program, I was given the opportunity to put theory into practice and it is evident how valuable the program is.

“In order to prepare the leaders of the field tomorrow, these classes need to continue.”


Erin Vickstrom

“I am a teacher at Quinsigamond Children’s School in Worcester, MA where I have been working for just over seven years.

“My school is a lab preschool on the Quinsigamond Community College campus. The preschool has a Director, an Associate director and Lead Teachers as well as full and part-time faculty who work with college students in and out of the preschool classroom. Structurally, they are the leaders in the building. Since I am only a teacher, I did not feel like it was part of my role to be a leader, at least among staff. Looking back now, this seems like a flawed perspective, as it only considered the structure of assigned roles and not what was best for the function of the school.

“In the pursuit of my master’s degree, from Worcester State University, I took a course called Communication for Collaboration through the leadership program. As the semester progressed, I learned about a variety of communication styles, different outlooks, and a range of factors that influence outcomes of communication.

“This knowledge led me to do a lot of self-reflection… I decided that if I wanted a change to occur anywhere, on classroom, program, or policy levels, I needed to be a part of that. I could not sit back and expect change to happen without taking on a leadership role. As a result, I have stepped out of my comfort zone and started being at the forefront of change rather than waiting for change to happen and accepting it when it does. I have become a voice, in my classroom, in my program, in the community and in the state. I am an advocate for early education.

“I now also train the next generation of teachers, leaders and advocates. I work closely with college students in the Early Childhood program and help them to find their voices.”

“… we as early educators can become an unstoppable force on behalf of young children. Helping educators, both new and experienced, to find their inner leader is an integral part of work on behalf of children and families. This is why programs like the one offered through QCC and Worcester State University need to be supported.”


Kristy Walley 

“I am a preschool teacher at Creative Children Learning Center in Framingham. I have been working in the field for ten years.

“The Webster’s Dictionary defines leadership as ‘the power or ability to lead other people.’ At the beginning of this program I thought, ‘Me a leader?’ I could never have the ability to lead other people nor the power.’ At the time I felt as though I was not respected, never mind in a place to lead other people.

“I did a project where I chose to try and improve parent involvement at events with in our school. The event I was planning was Read for the Record. I did all the planning and shared all the materials that each teacher might need. The event went off without a hitch and overall it was a big success. I felt proud that I had in a way made it all happen.

“At the beginning of the Leadership in Early Education and Care, I was very timid and afraid… that I would upset someone or by voicing my opinion [and that] I would face some sort of backlash for it. As the Leadership Course went on I learned that what I had to say might be valued and wanted.

“One aspect while in the Leadership Program that at times I needed the most and got was the ability to talk with peers. When we went into the classroom it was like Vegas. What was said there stayed there. I could walk in to get anything that was bothering me off my chest… and understanding of where I was coming from. Something at the time I was not getting at work.”

“I felt like I was doing something wrong and did not belong in this center or field. From these talk with peers I feel that I was able to go back in and face another day at my center. Changes in my center have happened. I no longer feel like this. For the first time I feel like I am valued and wanted within my center. Something I don’t think would have happened without the Leadership in Early Education and Care program.”

“A few weeks ago I was asked to be a leader… to be my company’s Service Value Champion. My company has values that they would like all staff members to adhere to [to] help build relationships with families… to create overall satisfaction among staff and families. I was so honored and accepted the position. When my director talked to me about it, she said I was the first person she thought of. I feel like we need to keep programs like this available for other early educators.”

“Before this program teachers and directors had to learn as they go. Now when something comes up we can pull what we learned in all these courses from the back of our minds or notes and be ready to handle it will more confidence. Nine years ago, I graduated from Quinsigamond Community College with a degree in Early Childhood Education now I can proudly say that I have a certificate in Leadership in Early Education and Care.”