“Leading the Way,” is a series featuring the next generation of leaders in the field of early education and care.

Lynn Santiago-Calling

For Lynn Santiago-Calling, leadership means connecting people.

Santiago-Calling is the new executive director of MAAEYC, the Massachusetts Association for the Education of Young Children, and she is working to help the organization grow.

MAAEYC is an affiliate of NAEYC, the National Association for Education of Young Children. Affiliates share NAEYC’s “core value” of “creating opportunities to widen our reach to early educators.”

“Our goal,” Santiago-Calling says, “is to move the profession forward.”

How? The organization is developing a strategic, five-year plan, and Santiago-Calling is building relationships. She and MAAEYC’s board want to increase membership and attract younger early educators.

“I’ve been going out to chapter meetings to get to know people, but those are the people who are already involved and engaged. I also want to hear from folks who are members but not actively engaged and ask them why aren’t you actively engaged? What can we do to engage you? Is there something that we’re missing? I want to hear from our members — and from nonmembers as well.”

MAAEYC currently has three chapters, in Cape Cod, Worcester County, and Essex county. And Santiago-Calling is supporting a volunteer who is forming a new chapter in Middlesex County. She also wants to see more chapters emerge in Western Massachusetts.

Building a wide network of chapters is essential for creating opportunities.

“Our educators work with people face-to-face and work with kids and families every day, but they may not have that support from their peers. Sometimes even if they are standing next to a teacher, they still may feel isolated and alone.”

To address this challenge, MAAEYC is a convener.

“Having those face to face meetings is so important because when you’re able to see someone and physically connect to them, you grow that relationship, and our hope is that people will feel more comfortable picking up the phone or sending someone a text and saying what they’re having a hard time with or having a way to celebrate something exciting that happened in the classroom that day.”

MAAEYC is also growing online.

“We are growing our social media presence because that is important. Not everyone can leave their day job if we’re having something in the middle of the day. We want to have a social media presence that makes us accessible to as many people as possible.”

MAAEYC’s board is also evolving, creating professional development opportunities by adding new committees and looking for new committee members who could eventually go on to become board members.

“We want to create pockets of communities where people are living and working,” Santiago-Calling says. “It’s a chance to connect with more people in the profession who may be just down the street. It helps to expand people’s village if you will.”

Santiago-Calling comes to this work after 20 years of strategic and fundraising work in nonprofit organizations. At MIT, she was the associate director of class and affinity giving. She was also the director of development for the Green Schools Alliance. And she is also a member of the Board of the East Bridgewater YMCA.

Santiago-Calling graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies, Human Development, and Family Relations.

Now she wants to be a voice for early educators.

“If I see something that needs to be fixed, I want to be the one to fix it because I think it’s easy to wait around and think someone else will do it, but that’s not always the case.”

Ultimately, “This organization belongs to the members. I am here to listen to you and to support you and to be your voice. I invite people to reach out to me. If I could reach out to every MAAEYC member in Massachusetts and hear what it is you need from us — if I could have that conversation, it would make me so happy.”