The Colorado legislative session has come to a close! After considering nearly 800 bills and resolutions these past few months, Colorado policymakers adjourned for the year on May 11th. Clayton Early Learning tracked over a dozen bills related to our children, their caregivers, and the field of early childhood this legislative session, several of which passed into law:
- HB16-1227: Exempts a CCCAP applicant who is a teen parent from the current prerequisite child support cooperation as a condition of receiving child care assistance. The bill also exempts an applicant who is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, harassment, or stalking from child support cooperation requirements or from establishing good cause for not cooperating as a condition of receiving child care assistance. This bill would eliminate one of the key barriers for teen parents and domestic violence survivors seeking to access child care.
- HB16-1242: This supplemental appropriation bill for the Colorado Department of Human Services includes a reassignment of funding to go to doubling the amount of Early Childhood Mental Health Intervention Specialists employed by the state from 17 to 34. This means more readily available help and resources to organizations like Clayton to support positive mental health of our children, families, and staff.
- HB16-1423: Tightens statewide restrictions to protect student data privacy by adopting additional duties that the state board, department of education, school districts, boards of cooperative services, and charter schools must comply with to increase the transparency and security of the student personally identifiable information that the department and the education agencies collect and maintain.
- HB16-1425: Specifies that a licensed child care center is not required to obtain immunization records for any child who enrolls and attends the center for up to 15 days or less in a 15-consecutive-day period. A center that accepts short-term enrollees can only do so only if it provides notification to all parents who have children in the center that the center allows short-term enrollees without obtaining proof of immunization.
- SB16-22: Removes the 10-county limit in the “cliff effect” pilot program for CCCAP to allow additional counties to participate in the pilot program. The pilot program addresses the “cliff effect” that occurs when working parents receive a minor increase in their income that makes them ineligible for child care assistance, which is often not enough of an increase to cover child care costs completely. The pilot allows for a more gradual phase out of assistance to help families transition.
- SB16-212: Aligns state law with changes in federal law related to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). The state law would be modified to specify that a child receiving CCCAP supports continues to be eligible for those supports for an entire 12-month period before eligibility is redetermined, as long as the child's family income remains below 85% of the state median income for that family size, as required by federal law. This correction to state law would also support the CCCAP reforms that have been occurring since the passage of HB14-1317 in 2014 that Clayton Early Learning has played an active role in implementing.
Bills that Clayton Early Learning followed that did not pass includes:
- HB16-1002: Re-enacts the repealed K-12 Parental Involvement Act which required employers to provide its employees up to 18 hours per academic year of unpaid leave from work to attend a child’s academic activities. This bill would expand both the types of activities that were permitted for the employee leave, such as parent teacher conferences, as well as expand the law to include parents of preschoolers.
- HB16-1022: Increases the amount of funding school districts receive to more comprehensively fund full day kindergarten. According to this bill, if a school district does not currently provide a full-day kindergarten program during the 2016-17 year they must use these new funds to expand its kindergarten facilities. Funding for following school years are also written into the bill.
- HB16-1045: In 2013, the general assembly created a child tax credit against state income taxes for a resident individual. But the credit, which is a percentage of the federal child tax credit based on the taxpayer's income, is only allowed after the United States congress enacts a version of the "Marketplace Fairness Act". This bill repeals the contingent start of the tax credit and instead allows the credit to be claimed for any income tax year beginning with the 2016 income tax year.
- HB16-1050: Creates a task force to address the child care needs of low-income parents of young children as the parents seek to advance their education. The task force must identify and reduce, if possible, barriers to obtaining child care from the range of available federal, state, and private child care sources, determine whether the parents' child care needs can be met through existing sources, review and streamline the processes for providing child care for parents while they obtain education or training, communicate the availability of child care from public and private sources to parents who are seeking education or training, and recommend legislative changes.
- HB16-1196: Creates the aspire to college Colorado pilot program in the department of human services to provide college savings accounts, as defined in the bill, to preschool-aged children served in an early childhood program. Within existing appropriations, the state department shall make an initial $50 contribution to a college savings account administered by CollegeInvest as part of the college savings program on behalf of an eligible child.
- HB16-1338: Under current law, the early childhood leadership commission is scheduled to repeal on September 1, 2018. The bill extends the repeal date to September 1, 2020.
Just because the legislative session is over doesn’t mean that the policy process stops! Summer and fall are busy seasons for legislators, as they meet with their constituents, attend interim commissions, prepare for elections and begin to draft bills for the upcoming session.
If you have any questions about these bills or ways to be involved in the legislative process while policymakers are out of sessions, please contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist for Clayton Early leaning: email@example.com.
Every year, Clayton Early Learning, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Children’s Hospital Colorado team up to host Speak Up for Kids, a complimentary event that provides an insider’s perspective of the policy making process including the training and support needed to speak up effectively on the issues that matter most to Colorado kids. Anyone who wants to learn how to be a voice for our state’s children are welcome to attend and this year we had a record breaking attendance of over 200 advocates and coaches!
Want to know what it’s like to participate in this annual event? Let’s hear from our guest blogger and Infant/Toddler Supervisor at Clayton Early Learning in Far North East Denver, Lydia McKinney.
"The first time I had the privilege to participate at Speak Up for Kids was three years ago. I attended the meeting by myself. I didn’t know anybody. Of course, I was aware of who Children’s Hospital and Clayton Early Learning were, and I knew more about Children’s Campaign after I researched them. That first day I went home with a pocket full of knowledge, an experience which opened the door to opportunities, and a goal to keep pursuing where my heart leads.
The following year I was invited to be an advocacy coach on behalf of Clayton Early Learning and this year I was a table captain. An advocacy coach answers all the questions you have about your legislature, walks with you to the Capitol, and guides through the process of it. A table captain initiates a conversation at the table where participants of all field attend. Each time I attended the meeting I meet people, developed relationships, and connect with old friends.
A wide variety of people take time off from their busy work schedule to participate in the training, meet legislators, and reflect on their experience with fellow participants, advocacy coaches, or table captains. It’s a day you meet people you thought would never have time for you because they are doing the important work of making policies. The best part of meeting with policymakers is realizing you are the one they want to meet and listen to. You are the most important advocate for our kids!
Now you may be thinking of yourself as your read this blog, “only people whose job it is can afford to advocate” or “they have lobbyists who advocate for causes”. However, your role as an advocate didn’t start because you attended Speak Up for Kids, the event only re-enforced the need to follow your passion. Let’s say you are a provider with a disabled child who you want to provide with the best care, but practically you cannot because there is no access to a playground that developmentally appropriate. It’s your passion, so pick up your phone and call your city council man/woman, express your worries, ask for referrals, and make your mission public. Advocacy is in all of us, we are all connect to children no matter what kind of jobs we have. Police officers, trash men/women, bus driver, city council women/ and men, the mayor, Senators and Representatives, the Governor – even you!"
Interested in learning more about Speak Up for Kids and other ways you can be an advocate for Colorado’s children? Contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist at Clayton Early Leaning, at 303-393-5623 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out pictures from this year’s event at www.facebook.com/ClaytonEarlyLearning/!
By Peter Blank
Lorrel Esterbrook, Mentor Coach for Family Engagement at Clayton Early Learning, has years of experience working with various center and family based programs. In addition to overseeing the Play and Learn programs here at Clayton, she has a wealth of knowledge about the HIPPY program (read more about HIPPY here). She recently transformed this wealth of knowledge into a published story book rooted in the HIPPY curriculum, "What I Saw". I asked Lorrel about her experience in family engagement, her wonderful book, and life as a published author. The following is an edited version of our conversation.
PB: What drew you to a career in ECE and specifically home and family based instruction?
LE: While I was in college I started working for a community center in Denver’s Five Points/Curtis Park neighborhoods teaching art classes and job readiness skills to adolescents that were either already gang affiliated or at risk for drugs, violence, and gang affiliation. While doing that work the importance of family engagement became even more apparent to me. I also saw the critical role that programs like Head Start played in fostering parent engagement. Eventually I started working with a Head Start program and then I started working with a school based early childhood and family engagement program. That’s when I was introduced to home visiting. I was fortunate to work with a small but passionate team that was conducting home visits in three different languages to immigrant and refugee families from around the world. The families we served taught me about a wide range of wonderful family and parenting practices. Parents would sometimes ask me for “the right way” to parent their child. That broke my heart because it implied that they were in some way doing something wrong. My goal became honoring their cultural style of parenting while giving them a buffet of options they could try out as they learned the culture of their new home.
PB: When did you first get involved with the HIPPY program?
LE: As happens in our field, the grant for the ECE and parent engagement program I was working with ended. I stumbled upon a position as a HIPPY Coordinator for a county Head Start program. I knew HIPPY by name, but little else. Within a few days of accepting the position I was in Little Rock, Arkansas attending the HIPPY pre-service training for coordinators. By the end of the week I was hooked! HIPPY is rooted in some of my core beliefs. All parents want good things for their children. HIPPY strives to honor the parenting tools that families have already, and introduces them to new strategies to help their child learn and grow.
PB: You were a HIPPY coordinator for ten years and work as a National Trainer for HIPPY USA. How did you become involved with the program as an author?
LE: A few years ago the HIPPY curriculum underwent a major rewrite. That revision was led by a team from Clayton Early Learning including Michelle Mackin-Brown and Jan Hommes. My decision to apply for a position at Clayton was influenced in part by the positive experience I had working with this curriculum development team. Several HIPPY sites were selected to pilot the new curriculum and the site I was working with was one of those. In that capacity I had an opportunity to provide feedback to the curriculum revision team and helped rewrite the coordinators manual for the model. I attended a curriculum meeting at the HIPPY USA 2014 Leadership Conference in Washington DC. During that meeting there was discussion about updating the story books for the curriculum. We were asked for our thoughts on what was needed for a new story and I had a lot to say and a lot of ideas. A few weeks later I got a call from HIPPY USA asking me if I would like to try putting all of my ideas into book form. I was thrilled with the idea and jumped right on the opportunity.
PB: What inspired you to write “What I Saw”?
LE: “What I Saw” is about a kindergartner named Tasha who is nervous about talking in front of the class during show and tell. The teacher Mrs. Hart has asked all of the children to bring pictures of animals they have seen. Mrs. Hart provides encouragement and opportunities for the children to expand their language and learning around animals like birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Mrs. Hart accepts each child where they are at, while giving them opportunities for growth. This leads Tasha to feel more comfortable talking.
I’m a huge animal and nature lover. When I was a kid I loved books about animals. I felt this was an opportunity to introduce some big vocabulary and science to preschool age children. I tried to pick a wide range of animals so that every child reading the book could identify with seeing at least one of those animals. But I also wanted to provide opportunities for children to be introduced to animals they might not have seen. I specifically chose the North American Wood Duck as one of the birds in the story. This type of duck was hugely important to me as a child and was considered endangered during the 1970’s. My family worked with and supported these ducks on our property as part of a species conservation plan. Because of the program my family participated in you can now see North American Wood Ducks living all over the country including Denver’s City Park.
All of the children in “What I Saw” are named and modeled after children in my own family and family friends. The teacher in the story is one of my HIPPY Mentors, Gayle Hart. Illustrator Debbie Clark, did an amazing job of portraying all of the characters. I wanted all of the children in my life to be able to look at the book and see a child that they could identify with on some level. Maybe they identify with a child because of the way they look, or they might identify with a personality trait, or the structure of the family.
PB: Why is it important that children have access to literature like this?
LE: There are three main points that stick out for me: First of all “What I Saw” is designed to prompt parents to talk with their children about the book. To ask children open ended questions. It models questions that parents can ask, it shows possible responses and how parents can build on their child’s response. Secondly it gives children an opportunity to learn some new big vocabulary in a very age appropriate manner. I love hearing children tell their parents “That’s a dog, it’s a mammal because it has fur”. Lastly, but maybe most important, I think it’s important for children to see themselves in the stories they read. As I said before, all of the children and the teacher are modeled on real people, people I love, respect and care about. Some of those individuals had expressed that they didn’t see people like them in children’s stories. I wanted to change that. I wanted those individuals to know how important they are and their unique qualities are to me.
PB: What advice would you give other education professionals who are interested in becoming authors?
LE: Have someone who can give you good honest and constructive feedback. Writing taps into your emotions. I put a lot of heart and soul into this story. Getting constructive criticism could have been a painful experience, but it wasn’t because the person in charge of filtering the feedback back to me took the time to honor and respect my feelings on my work. For every hour you spend writing you will probably spend ten hours thinking, researching, and problem solving. I think that might have been the biggest surprise to me. Children need to hear stories told from many perspectives and many voices. Add your unique voice and perspective to the world of children’s literature. Write about who and what you love.
PB: You are attending the upcoming HIPPY Leadership Conference next month. What is the focus of this conference? What is your role at this conference?
LE: The conference is held every other year and is an opportunity for HIPPY coordinators and staff to meet, engage in professional development and learn about new developments with the HIPPY model and curriculum. This year there will be a book signing event where some of the HIPPY authors and illustrators will be signing books for the conference participants. I will be co-presenting a workshop called “HIPPY Hacks”. We will be presenting and crowd sourcing ideas on how to save time, money, and sanity while running a HIPPY program.
You can find more information on the upcoming HIPPY Leadership Conference by following the link.
By Peter Blank
Clayton Early Learning has been working to increase early literacy skills with the help of the innovative Ready to Read (RTR) project since 2012. As the project moves into its fourth year let’s take a closer look at the various levels and true depth and reach of RTR.
Clayton received a grant to implement the Ready to Read project, in collaboration with our partner organization Mile High Montessori Early Learning Centers (MHM), from Mile High United Way. The goal of RTR is to foster early literacy skills through interventions, focusing on oral language and vocabulary, in children birth to three. RTR encompasses two different evaluation studies, one in center based care the other in informal care, in an effort to achieve this goal across various care settings. A variety of tools and unique curricula, including Dialogic Reading and Cradling Literacy, are being used to nurture these literacy skills in participating families and children.
Center Based Study
The RTR center-based evaluation study takes place at Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning and four MHM early learning centers across Denver. Within these centers all participating classrooms are trained in and implement Dialogic Reading. According to Shelly Anderson, Project Manager of RTR, Dialogic Reading is an interactive approach to literacy “where the child becomes the storyteller and the adult takes on the role of active listener, following the child’s lead”. By using picture books and letting the child direct the story, it focuses on developing oral language skills as well as a passion for storytelling and books. Dialogic Reading is designed for children birth to five, so even infants and toddlers can begin developing literacy skills at their young age.
In addition to Dialogic Reading, some center-based classrooms are supplemented by the Cradling Literacy curriculum. This additional intervention is an evidence based professional development curriculum for teachers. Developed by Zero to Three, it includes 12 two hour training sessions that cover various topics of literacy development such as the benefits of storytelling and working with families to foster emergent literacy skills.
Play and Learn Study
RTR isn’t just helping children in center-based programs develop early literacy skills. Five Play and Learn groups are also participating in the project. (For more information on Play and Learn, check out this blog.) Parents and caregivers at these Play and Learn sites also receive Dialogic Reading training and work on developing this practice during group sessions and at home. Additionally, some Play and Learn families receive coaching and feedback on their language interactions with children via LENA recording devices. LENA devices are like a pedometer for words, capturing language interactions including child vocalizations, adult word count, conversational terms, and the audio environment like TV and radio. Understanding just how much and what kind of language children hear day to day is integral for emergent literacy and language development.
With a multitude of approaches and evidence based tools, the Ready to Read project has been truly innovative in its approach to early literacy. It will be exciting to continue reviewing the results for the remainder of the project, which ends in the fall of 2017.
For more information on Ready to Read, contact Shelly Anderson at email@example.com
By Peter Blank
What is HIPPY?
There are many program options available to families at Clayton Early Learning. In addition to the numerous center-based options our schools offer, many families participate in various home-based programming. One of these options is the Head Start Home Based* program, which employs the HIPPY model and curriculum. The Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) is, according to their website, “an evidenced-based program that works with families in the home to support parents in their critical role as their child's first and most important teacher”The program follows a specific 30 week curriculum designed for children ages three to five. This curriculum focuses on cognitive skill development, such as math and literacy, as well as social emotional development.
HIPPY at Clayton
The HIPPY program is no stranger to Clayton Early Learning’s campus. Beginning in 1994, the model has been serving parents and children at Clayton for over 20 years. At the time of publishing, 68 children currently benefit from this innovative home-based early learning program here at Clayton. Nearly 90% of these children are identified as primary Spanish speakers. According to Michelle Mackin Brown, Team Lead of Family & Community Services at Clayton, participating families always express appreciation about the fact that the HIPPY curriculum is available bilingually in Spanish and English. Coupled with our bilingual home-based HIPPY staff, this allows the program to work seamlessly across varying demographics.
The model is adaptable not only across languages, but locations and settings as well. According to Michelle Makin Brown the activities included in the curriculum “can be done in the home, at the park, at the store and in the community throughout the week to support school readiness”. This flexible approach allows parents to work with their children wherever they may be, bringing important early learning opportunities out of the classroom and into the community.
As previously mentioned, this curriculum is broken out across 30 weeks though at Clayton our home-based HIPPY program lasts 32 weeks. Each home visitor, or Child Family Educator (CFE), working with home-based HIPPY has a limited number of families on their caseload. Such small caseloads allow the CFEs to develop meaningful relationships with both the parent and child throughout their time in the program. During the 32 weeks, families participate in weekly 90 minute home-visits with their CFE to work on new aspects of the curriculum and check in on previous weeks’ goals and activities. In addition to these weekly visits, families come together twice a month for a socialization session. These group sessions are held on Clayton’s campus and offer a classroom experience for the children as well as the parents. During this classroom routine, children are able to socialize with each other and both the parents and children are exposed to social encounters and group learning activities. Transportation is provided to and from the group socializations. Although not required, some CFEs incorporate field trips into the program, bringing certain activities to new and exciting settings like the Denver Zoo.
How is it working?
In order to measure success and progress of the HIPPY program, it undergoes an evaluation process similar to that of Clayton’s center-based options. A combination of data from child assessments and parent interviews are analyzed every year in an effort to track the program’s findings. According to the 2014-2015 Clayton Annual Evaluation Report, “Spanish-speaking HIPPY children† tended to demonstrate strong receptive language skills and made statistically significant gain over time. By the end of the year, the majority of children scored in the average range or above.” Specifically, kindergarten-bound HIPPY children assessed in Spanish left the program with above average receptive language skills.
On a more anecdotal level, when asked how the home-based HIPPY program benefits families and children, had this to say:
“Parents become familiar with educational terms, important milestones for development, how to encourage language development and how to individualize for their child. Families become more aware of their child’s interests, behaviors and learning. Families have expressed that they have received positive feedback from elementary school staff about their child’s academic and social-emotional progress.”
A truly unique combination for both parent and child, Clayton home-based HIPPY continues to reach a wide audience across the Denver community. Here’s to 20 more years of bringing important early learning opportunities to families’ doorsteps!
For more information on the HIPPY program nationwide visit: www.hippyusa.org
For more information on the HIPPY program and other home-based services at Clayton Early Learning contact Tonya Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the HIPPY evaluation efforts contact Diana Mangels at email@example.com.
*Note: Clayton’s Head Start (HS) Home Based program follows the HIPPY curriculum with a few additional HS programming requirements. Based on HS requirements, these include an increased number of socializations (16 in total) and two additional weeks than the HIPPY curriculum (32, instead of 30).
†The sample of English speaking children in the home-based HIPPY program was too small to permit valid statistical analysis. Therefore, data are reflective of Spanish speaking children only.
By Peter Blank
Debbie Baker, Child Family Educator and member of the I Love to Read committee, shares with our blog readers the in's and the out's of "I Love to Read" month, which starts February 1st.
By: Debbie Baker
February is “I Love to Read” month at Clayton Early Learning. Early Literacy includes such activities as reading, singing, and talking with your infant, toddler or preschool-aged child. At Clayton Early Learning, we celebrate Early Literacy in February by tracking how many books parents read to their children, inviting guest readers and Clayton staff to read aloud to children, and promoting book sharing with dialogic reading classes for parents.
Ample research demonstrates that reading aloud to young children promotes the development of language and other emergent literacy skills which in turn help children prepare for school. Reading aloud to your child from birth gives your child a true head start in school readiness. Every time you read to your child you are improving their learning advantage.
In addition to improving your child’s language and literacy development, reading aloud also impacts social and emotional development, cognitive development, and fine motor development. Babies and toddlers learn about trust and secure attachment as they share a book snuggled in a lap. They practice attending to the book and can learn about situations that are outside of their regular sphere of influence by reading about them. Fine motor development is enhanced by the child’s desire to help turn the pages as an infant or toddler.
Reading aloud to young children, particularly in an engaging manner, promotes emergent literacy and language development and supports the relationship between child and parent. In addition it can promote a love for reading which is even more important than improving specific literacy skills.
Look for our “I Love to Read to You” poster in the piazza at Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning, and add your child’s name to the heart every time you read aloud this month. There is even a cozy reading area for you to share a book with your child as you drop off or pick up.
Join us for the kick off on February 1. There will be lots of books to share and popcorn to munch as we celebrate “I Love to Read” month at Clayton Early Learning.
If you have more questions regarding February's literacy celebration or how reading impacts child development, feel free to contact Debbie for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Peter Blank
December 18th, 2015 was a special day for all members of the Clayton Early Learning family, it marked the 10th celebration of Culture Night at our schools and wrapped up another great Culture Week celebration! This year, between 75-100 families participated in the event, which focused on stories and storytelling.
To get a better sense of Culture Night’s importance at Clayton, and the equally as exciting Culture Week, I asked Kelsey Petersen-Hardie, with some help from Charmaine Lewis, both of the Cultural Competency Work-group to share with us how it all began.
Peter: I know the big celebration has come and gone for this year, but I wanted to help clarify Culture Night at Clayton Early Learning for our readers. What is it exactly?
Kelsey: Culture Night is a night we invite children and their families, staff and our families, and community members to our schools to come together and learn about cultures and build our school community in a celebratory environment. We have three objectives with Culture Night:
- To create an interactive and visual experience for children, families, staff, and community members to explore the many cultures of Clayton Early Learning through the shared experience of a cultural aspect.
- To prompt deeper thinking by delving more deeply into an element of culture that is shared by all families and staff, but experienced differently.
- To provide developmentally appropriate experiences to build children’s foundational knowledge of culture.
P: And this year’s theme was Story Telling, correct? How was this theme chosen?
K: The theme this year was Stories and Storytelling. Each year families and staff have the opportunity to vote on a cultural theme in September. There are 10-12 cultural themes to choose from, all representing elements that all cultures share, yet experience differently.
P: That’s great. When did it begin? And why?
K: Because our community is so diverse, Culture Night was created to honor the diversity that each family, child, and staff member brings to our school family. It has been a celebration that promotes curiosity and respect for differences, as well as similarities.
[According to Charmaine, culture night began back in 2005].
P: Wow! This tradition has been around for quite some time. Has Culture Week always been part of the celebration as well?
K: No, Culture Week was implemented 3 or 4 years ago to extend the learning opportunities that are available through preparations for Culture Night. As Culture Night has evolved to provide meaningful and developmentally appropriate experiences in an early childhood setting, we learned that one night was scratching the surface (one week still is scratching the surface, but allows a little more time to get our community engaged in the content). Currently, teachers begin planning for intentional experiences in their daily lessons in October and November.
P: I know firsthand that all this planning and hard work paid off -- I was able to catch the Storybook Parade at Educare during Culture Week and had a smile the entire time. It was so fun to watch each classroom parade down the hallway, dressed in their favorite storybook theme. What other activities were part of this year’s celebration?
K: This year we had some of our own Storytelling heroes share their own storytelling methods with our children and families during the week, like preschool lead teacher/puppet show master Paul Mezzacapo, and Community Mentor Coach/children’s book author Lorrel Esterbrook. During Culture Night, guests were invited to experience a variety of activities to encourage reflection on their own cultural practices and beliefs about stories and storytelling, including making a recording of themselves telling a story for their children to listen to, going on a bear hunt, and exploring family stories through cuisine.
P: Sounds like there were plenty of activities for everyone, thanks for sharing!
All in all, Culture Night and Week was another huge success for all the children, families, and staff at Clayton Early Learning. As Kelsey mentioned, it is always important for our diverse Clayton family to come together and celebrate what makes us simultaneously unique and similar. This togetherness helps make Clayton Early Learning such a special place for all. A big thank you to all of the hard work from staff and families that made this year’s Culture Night/Week celebrations a success!
Interested in other Culture Night stories?! Check out these blog posts from the archives, recapping previous years’ events.
“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Sometime during my student teaching experience, I read “Educating Esme” by Esme Raji Codell. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” kind of guy, but this book really resonated with me as I began my own educational journey. ”Educating Esme” is an elementary school teacher’s diary of her first year leading a classroom; chronicling the ups and downs of her experience with a sincere, humorous and sometimes sentimental delivery. While I’m not technically in my first year of teaching, the end of this school year has reminded me of Esme’s diary and because I truly believe in celebrating my ‘firsts,' I have written this post to share some personal/professional reflection as I celebrate the closing of my first year as a lead preschool teacher.
Considering that I’m 32 years old and have had a degree in ECE for almost 10 years, this ‘year one’ milestone may not seem like much of an accomplishment and you may be wondering what I’ve been doing since graduating college? I would love to tell you that I’d been beachcombing the Mediterranean, but the truth is that I’ve been on a much more domestic journey; I’ve, in fact, been teaching.
In ten years, I have been a teacher of art to urban students. I taught Earth science and ecology to fifth graders at Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center, in Yellow Springs, Ohio where my classroom was a 1,000 acre nature preserve. I was a substitute teacher of physical education, general education and art for elementary through secondary school and for students with special needs. I taught foster children in residential care and students who were in ‘alternative’ schools at Community House, in Brattleboro Vermont. These students had previously been expelled from other institutions and had been sent to Community House because they essentially had nowhere else to go. There, my classroom was a 150 year-old Victorian house.
I didn’t really have my own classroom in any of those situations; at least not a classroom in the traditional sense.
I hadn’t planned on teaching in such a variety of experiences. After completing my student teaching in a public kindergarten classroom, I was as poised as the rest of my teaching program’s graduating class to begin my first year of teaching in September of 2006. Though I may have been academically prepared to settle into a classroom and begin plugging away toward retirement, I struggled with self-doubt and insecurity about whether I could actually manage and lead my own classroom. I mean, who am I to build up the minds of a future generation?
Like “Educating Esme,” I kept a student teaching journal that I recently revisited. It was back and forth communication between my advisor and me, but also a pretty reflective manuscript of vulnerability. While I had the usual encouragement and support from friends, family and advisors, I was still lacking the confidence to be a lead teacher. Maybe I felt like I hadn’t earned it yet. Sure, I had acquired a B.A., passed the Praxis II and even had a teaching license, but something was missing; something that can’t be taught.
So instead of leaping before I looked, I began with baby-steps into the teaching field; substitute teaching, tutoring, and Saturday art lessons. Little stuff. Safe stuff.
With each successive work experience, I felt myself gaining skills and began to recognize my own teaching rhythm. This was the post-graduate work that couldn’t be taught by a professor. It was hands-on. It was reflecting in a journal that no-one would read and participating in supervision with the person in the mirror each morning. This was educating me. Last year I began working at Clayton Early Learning at the newly opened Far Northeast campus. It was during that year as an assistant (a familiar role), that I realized that I had everything I needed to be a lead. I could do this. I had the behavior management skills, the curriculum knowledge, and the open-mind for new approaches. I also realized that Clayton would provide professional development and training, and a supportive supervisor to reflect on my practice. Most importantly, through my own trial by fire I had gained the confidence to lead my own classroom.
It’s often assumed that a teacher is the end product of their undergraduate studies and graduate work. Trust that there is a formula that can be administered and acknowledged with course requirements and licensing expectations. I would argue that teaching is a quest of personal growth for the teacher. Without reflection, how does a teacher set personal and professional goals? Without experimentation, how does a teaching learn new approaches? Without self-discipline, how does a teacher become a role-model for others? Before I go all Zen, I’m going to make one request, for all teachers, parents and supervisors: Celebrate the teacher in yourself. Celebrate all you did last year. Celebrate the personal growth in your life and set new goals for next year. Celebrate you as I am celebrating me and my first year as a lead preschool teacher
1) Denver Chalk Art Festival
Kick-off your summer creativity with the Denver Chalk Art Festival! Chalk art is a fun medium that can be shared by kids and professionals alike. In the kids’ corner, kids can create their own art. Youth Groups will compete in a chalk challenge to help fund their school arts programs. The whole family can enjoy incredible works from award-winning street painters and live music throughout the festival.
When: June 6, 2015 (10am-10pm) & June 7, 2015 (10am-7pm)
Where: Larimer Square
2) A Taste of Puerto Rico
A Taste of Puerto Rico is the largest Caribbean festival in Colorado! This festival is more than 10 years old and this year there will be a special tribute to the father of Salsa, Frankie Ruiz, by his brother Viti Ruiz. The whole family can enjoy musical act and cultural offerings, not to mention delicious Puerto Rican food.
When: Jun 14 (11am-8pm)
Where: Civic Center Park, E. Broadway & Colfax
More info: http://www.atopr.com/
3) Sand in the City
You don’t need to drive far to get to the beach this summer! Sand in the City is a family friendly beach party. Master sand sculptors will make giant works of art. Adults can enjoy local craft beer and music while the Kid Zone is jam-packed with obstacle courses, bouncy slides, magicians and buried treasure!
When: Jun 27-28 (12pm)
Where: Ralston Park, 64th & Simms, Arvada Co
More info: http://visitarvada.org/events/sand-in-the-city/
4) Colorado Dragon Boat Festival
In its 15th year, the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival has been praised as one of the Best Festivals in Denver! Festival spectators enjoy the ancient sport of Dragon Boat Races, traditional and contemporary arts performances that showcase Asian and Asian American talent and Taste of Asia food courts. A kids’ ‘Dragonland’ area includes children’s performers and storytellers and educational crafts. The whole family can enjoy ‘Gateway to Asia,’ described as a “portal into Asian culture” with demonstrations and performances.
When: July 18-19 (10am)
Where: Sloan’s Lake, Denver
More info: http://www.cdbf.org/
5) A Taste of Colorado
A Taste of Colorado is a great way to experience some of the best food in Denver and end your summer with some family fun. Five stages will feature regional and national performers and a large Arts & Crafts Marketplace will be present. The Kidzone includes free craft activities and play equipment with music and magic. Families can learn about Colorado history together in the Festival of Mountain and Plain Area.
When: September 4 (11:30am-10pm), September 5, 6 (10:30am -10pm), September 7 (10:30am-8pm)
Where: Civic Center Park, E. Broadway & Colfax
More info: http://www.atasteofcolorado.com/
Tell us your family's favorite Denver summer festival in the comments below!
For working families, having access to high quality child care is critically important to support parents as they look for jobs, advance their careers and education, and move toward financial stability. The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program provides assistance to these working families in our state so that a lack of quality child care does not prevent a family from achieving economic self-sufficiency. Funded through a mix of federal, state and local funds, as well as through some parent fees, CCCAP offers financial support for child care to families through country departments of social and human services with oversight from the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Steps in the Right Direction
During the 2014 state legislative session, several bills passed into law that enacted comprehensive reforms to CCCAP, including House Bill 14-1317 and Senate Bill 14-003. These changes aimed to improve CCCAP so that not only was it more accessible and helpful to the families that receive the assistance, but also to make CCCAP an easier program to interact with for the state department, counties, and providers that accept CCCAP recipients. Some of the major changes include:
- Reducing parent co-payments for those at 100 percent of the federal poverty level
- Broadening of activities for families to be eligible for CCCAP, including two years of postsecondary education and an extension of a job search period to 60 days
- Streamlining the eligibility and redetermination processes
- Mitigating the “cliff effect” , when families become ineligible for CCCAP due to an increase in income that does not cover the increased cost of child care, through county pilot programs
- Allowing CCCAP children to get care outside of the exact hours of a parent’s work schedule to allow for greater flexibility
- Tiered reimbursement for providers that accept CCCAP children based on quality ratings in the new state quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) Colorado Shines
- A statewide market rate study to determine the cost of care by county as well as a statewide equal access study to identify the gaps and needs for child care
To learn more about the history behind these changes, the specific reforms from HB14-1317 and SB14-003, and how to get involved with the implementation, tune in to the Buell Leaders podcast “From State Legislation to Local Action: the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program” at this link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/buellleadersradio/2015/05/13/from-state-legislation-to-local-action-the-co-child-care-assistance-program