“I’ve always thought I could be an advocate, but I had taught myself to just be an advocate for the children in my classroom. Then I started to grow in my teaching practice and realized that I needed to be an advocate for parents, too.”

Shauna Trick was always interested in education.

“I was that kid who was taking care of all the cousins, a natural caregiver,” Trick says.

For years, Trick worked with children: in afterschool programs, elementary schools, as a preschool teacher and site coordinator, as a nanny for eight years, and then as a preschool teacher for The Community Group in Lawrence, Mass., where she ultimately found that she loved mentoring new teachers. 

The pandemic was an important turning point. 

“Covid really pushed me over the edge,” she says. “I was burned out, and I decided that I wanted to do something different.” She applied for and got a job in The Community Group’s training program.

Trick became the lead coach for Massachusetts’ StrongStart Northeast Professional Development Centers, as well as a professional development specialist for the Council of Professional Recognition (CDA), “a leader in the credentialing of early childhood educators worldwide.”

“It was an exciting transition because I still have passion and love for the field of early education, and I always will, but now I am able to help in a different capacity. I try to uplift other early educators and directors so that they can continue to be on a healthy career path.”

As a coach, Trick helps early educators with a range of program areas, from administration to curriculum to her passion for supporting children’s social/emotional development. She has also provided training to support early education teams.

In addition, Trick teaches Instructional Leadership for Continuous Improvement in Early Education through StrongStart. This course was designed by UMass Boston’s Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation to support program quality. 

“In this class,” Trick explains, “groups of educators come together and they identify problems of practice within their programs. And we walk through around 20 protocols about how to make plans for continuous quality improvement. We work with evidence-based practices to implement program improvements and job embedded professional development.”

Her perspective as a former teacher and current coach also fit well with Trick’s participation in the second cohort of Strategy’s for Children’s Advocacy Network.

Trick says the Advocacy Network “aligns really well with the work that I’m doing. At first it was overwhelming. I thought I would have to come up with a big project and make all these changes. But what I found is that you start with what you are passionate about, and you build on that.”

“I’ve always thought I could be an advocate, but I had taught myself to just be an advocate for the children in my classroom. Then I started to grow in my teaching practice and realized that I needed to be an advocate for parents, too. I needed to encourage parents to become advocates for their children. So, I’ve always done that.

“Then the idea that I could step outside my comfort zone, that I could do more advocacy, was really appealing. Now, I feel a lot more confident and more comfortable taking bigger steps in that world.”

 As part of her Advocacy Network activities, Trick is training to be a trainer for Leading for Change, a StrongStart program for early educators. She’s also working on a project to make the Department of Early Education and Care’s website more accessible to the field by creating an online resource library for child care and out-of-school time providers. 

“There are so many great grants and resources that programs should have easier access to.”

The best part of belonging to the Advocacy Network?

“I’m just so inspired by all the people in the group,” Trick says of her Advocacy Network cohort. “They’re all doing such amazing work, and they have such a passion for the field. And because of them the field is better. What they brought to the Advocacy Network meetings, and what they have accomplished so quickly is so inspiring. I just love being in those meetings and hearing them share their work.”

What should policymakers know about early educators’ work?

Trick says policymakers should watch the June 2023 meeting of the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

“Everything that was said at this meeting, I thought, Yes, yes, yes. It’s all about continuous quality improvement. It’s all about building relationships and supporting children individually.”

“It’s all about supporting children early on so they have access to resources and access to high-quality education, and the ability to form positive relationships that help children gain the trust and confidence they need to explore their world with support and guidance.”

In addition, “Early interventions and the proper support for each child’s individual needs are extremely important and have a great impact on children’s continuous growth and development, which has a big impact on their future.”

“We have to make sure these programs are affordable to all children and all families no matter how much money they make — and especially for families who are struggling.”

Trick says policymakers should also know how important it is to provide young children with the services they need, and how early educators can play a key role in connecting families to these services and improving children’s lifetime outcomes.

“We need early educators to be paid well and make an honest living and be proud of what they do, instead of struggling to pay the rent,” she adds. “I want policy makers to know how much time and dedication goes into this work. Inside and outside the classroom. It is crucial for educators to feel valued and compensated for the incredibly important work they do.”

For Trick, there’s also the matter of pride. Having felt looked down on by people who asked about her career, Oh are you still doing that? she is determined to win respect for early educators.

“I want everyone to know what an important role we have. When I meet educators who say, I love working with babies or I love working with toddlers, I praise them because it takes a special person to have the drive to do that work. And I always tell them they’re making such a difference, and they should be so proud of what they do and know they can make a positive impact on a child’s whole life by supporting children’s growth and development in these early years.”