This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.
My name is Shamica Dade. I am the lead teacher/director at Square One in the Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) Program on Main Street in Springfield, Mass. I have been in this field for almost 20 years.
Early education and care is the foundation for all future learning. At this stage in life children learn to trust their educators and make connections with peers in a safe and secure setting. It is very important for me to make the children and families in my classroom feel that we are a family, and that we support and lean on each other. That connection and bond allows the parents to feel empowered, which is a skill they will need throughout the education of their child. Children feel loved and important and that they matter. These feelings will help to shape how they see themselves and their role in their education.
For me, every child should feel in charge of their learning, and every parent should feel that they are in a partnership with their children’s teachers. These are the skills and feelings I try to develop in every family that I work with. I learn just as much from each family as they learn from me.
As an educator, I have so many positive memories that I cherish and hold dear. What carries me day to day and year to year is when I see families that I have worked with, and I see all the wonderful things that are happening in their lives. It leaves me with great pride when families still reach out to me for support and include me in family events, even after their children have left my classroom. I am always happy when I form such lasting bonds because it speaks to my belief that we are family and have the same goal: for our children to succeed.
In my own educational career, I have earned a master’s degree in Human Services. I have also taken many early education classes to get my Director II certificate. My work in the Preschool Expansion Grant program has allowed me to take numerous trainings programs, some that are required and some that I wanted to take. I have learned a great deal about becoming a better supervisor and about how to become more efficient with my leadership skills. I think it is important to have the opportunity to experience such a rich and vast amount of professional development; this helps teachers stay current with the field.
What policymakers should know about our work is that quality early education and care is critical. Research has shown the validity and value of offering a program that has highly qualified staff, the resources to make connections between home and school, and the ability to better connect early education and care programs and the public school systems that children will be entering. When this happens, children are prepared at a higher level. That’s why it is crucial to reach children now and increase funds for early education.
One of my favorite children’s books is, “Oh the Places You Will Go” by Dr. Seuss. That’s because every day I try to open the minds of my parents and the imagination of my children. I don’t want them to see limits or boundaries on where they can go and what they can do in life. Taking ownership of themselves and directing their own paths should lead them to an abundant amount of possibilities.