Nola Glatzel was working as an elementary school teacher in New York City, when she decided to move back home to Cape Cod. This decision marked the beginning of her career as a child care provider and as an advocate.

“My sister had just had a baby, and my other sister had moved back, so I really wanted to come back, too,” Glatzel, who grew up in Provincetown, Mass., recalls. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, if I would get a license to teach in Massachusetts. But then, because I had a two-year-old niece, and her mom couldn’t find a child care placement for her, I came up with the idea of being a family child care provider.”

Today, Glatzel is the founder of Earthstar Play School in Truro, Mass., and she’s a member of the second cohort of Strategies for Children’s Advocacy Network for Early Education and Care.

To launch Earthstar, Glatzel began looking for other children.

“We have a child care desert out here,” Glatzel says of her part of the Cape, so a lot of people were very enthusiastic about my plans, and it wasn’t hard to fill the spots.”

Earthstar opened its doors in 2019, ran for about seven months, and then got shut down by the pandemic.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen to my business,” Glatzel says. “At that point there was no financial assistance. I was hearing that I might qualify for unemployment, but in those early days, I wasn’t sure, and I had put so much of my savings into starting this business.

“That was when I started to become politically aware of child care, because I had to pay attention to the news about what was going on. When the Covid regulations were released, I just sat there reading them, thinking, How am I going to do this?

Glatzel reopened Earthstar in September of 2020.

“Going through the pandemic affirmed for me the issues I’d already been seeing with the structure of child care in Massachusetts.”

Glatzel began to speak out. She participated on a panel about the future of child care hosted by Cape Cod Young Professionals. The panel included a representative from the YMCA of Cape Cod and the superintendent of Provincetown’s school.

“I sat there and I realized that it wasn’t just me who was worried about the gap between what parents can pay and the actual cost of running a child care program. I also learned about the Common Start Coalition and the Common Start bill.

“And that summer, in addition to Covid, everything was happening with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. There was this moment of Things are not right, things are not equitable in so many different arenas. And I had my awakening about child care in the same moment, that it’s something I am passionate about, and it’s an area where I can do something.”

One thing Glatzel did was join the Advocacy Network. She learned about the network from Cindy Horgan, the executive director of Cape Cod Children’s Place. Glatzel first met Horgan during the pandemic, when Glatzel would go to the Children’s Place to pick up Covid supplies.

“What has been most the most interesting for me about the Advocacy Network is hearing the stories of other people in the room and feeling that camaraderie and that shared sense of purpose,” Glatzel says. “It’s really interesting to hear about all the work people are doing. It’s really inspiring.”

Glatzel and fellow Advocacy Network member Adrienne Armstrong shared their experiences on a recent 9:30 Call. Glatzel also participated on a panel of early educators hosted by Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater.

One of Glatzel’s Advocacy Network projects was to help organize a conference with Cape Cod Young Professionals for early educators.

“A lot of teachers and directors came from across the Cape. There was a class solely for directors about the financial side of the business and about grants and other educational opportunities. Through that I learned that I could take free classes at our local community college. I’m taking child care administration so that I can be a director in a child care center.”

Glatzel is also working with the Cape Cod Children’s Place to create professional development programs for early educators about social-emotional learning and social regulation.

“This training is really important because a lot of adults have never learned about these topics. There’s a lot more information now about kids who were once considered to be misbehaving, and how we can advocate for what those kids need. Especially after Covid, we need more intentional teaching because a lot of kids weren’t with other children for the first few years of their lives.”

Providing this training is especially important for kids, Glatzel says, because “if kids can learn to express themselves and their needs when they’re young, this can change their whole life trajectory.”

What does Glatzel want policymakers to know about her work?

“Something I’m passionate about is that there really isn’t a dichotomy in early childhood between care and education. Sometimes policymakers say, Oh, this isn’t just child care, it’s education, it’s academic.

“I would love for people to think a little more deeply about what education for a young child really is. There’s so much learning that happens throughout the day at mealtimes, at rest time, and when children are just quote-unquote playing. This is all part of learning in early childhood. There’s nothing shameful about caring for children. It’s really important work.”

“Children are learning to be independent. They are learning how to take risks and trust themselves and be self-motivated. They are learning from the structure of the school day that life and days are cyclical, that there are things they can expect, that there are structures and rules they can feel safe within.

“And one of the most important things children are learning is that they are cared for and that their ideas matter.”