This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.
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My name is Susan Irene Rogers, and I work at Commonwealth Children’s Center (CCC) in Boston where I am the executive director. I have been in the early education field for 29 years! I started as a homework tutor at the age of 13.
In addition to working with children at a very young age, I was actually studying to become a firefighter. I was a senior in high school, and I was determined to accomplish both professions! At some point, my mother expressed her concerns regarding my safety as a female firefighter and said she would spend the rest of her life waiting to be informed that her child was fatally harmed. So, I enrolled at Northeastern University to study Early Childhood Education and Sociology. Less than a year later, I returned to NU to study American Sign Language.
The importance of my work as an early educator cannot be measured, but should certainly be valued. I truly love working with children and families and feel honored to experience this time in their lives. Assuring parents, especially first-time parents, that investing in their child’s early education experiences is one of the best choices they could ever make is THE most important part of my job.
I strongly believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn with their peers in a structured and enriching environment. Entering the world with the love and support of the partnership between parents and teachers affords every child a winning outcome.
After all of these years, I still enjoy learning alongside children. It’s exciting to wake up every day and wonder what I will learn. Sometimes my learning comes from conversing with children, observing children, or simply relating to parents as a parent.
For parents, paying for child care is a financial sacrifice, but the long-term benefits exceed the cost. I want parents to feel as though their child is receiving more than they could ever pay in tuition. As parents, it’s impossible for us to put a price on our children gaining a strong learning foundation at a quality child care center where teachers go above and beyond.
As an early educator, some of the work I am most proud of was serving as a Boston Organizer for the Massachusetts Early Childhood Educator’s Union (MECEU). I was responsible for visiting centers and recruiting teachers to join our organization which was supported by the Massachusetts Teacher’s Union, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers (MA). Our goal was to form a non-traditional union that would work to provide early childhood staff with competitive compensation, benefits, and professional development.
MECEU filed a bill in the Massachusetts State House that would have created an organization to represent early educators in policymaking. Unfortunately, our bill never passed. But it was an honor to be in a position to empower other educators and to thank them for their work.
To further my own education, I enrolled in Cambridge College to earn a master’s degree in special education; but to finish this program, I would need financial support in the form of a scholarship.
I have completed courses in management, administration, supervision, and staff development through Wheelock College, Urban College, and the National Coalition for Education and Cultural Programs. And I continue to grow professionally by attending workshops and conferences. I recently joined the Director’s Conference committee for the Boston Association for the Education of Young Children.
The fact that I most want policymakers to know is that early educators are “first responders” in our own right. During each school day, we are the first ones to respond to a child’s curiosity, interests, needs, desires, risks, mistakes, injuries, fears, sadness, accomplishments, and questions. And we love every minute of it! Yet and still, many early childhood educators are not being properly compensated.
As the state that designed the structure of education for the entire country, we should be ashamed that the people who are investing so much into the lives of our most valuable population are earning wages so close to the poverty line. I need policymakers to take action and improve the lives of our educators who work so diligently to improve the lives of our children!