Paying it Forward Through Early Childhood Education
What is your earliest memory? Is it playing in the backyard, picking dandelions? Maybe it’s celebrating a birthday. Or maybe an interaction you had with your first teacher. For those of us who went to a pre-k or childcare program, chances are, there is often an early experience with a teacher that is imprinted in our minds, even decades later.*
Talitha Kirby is a product of a Head Start program, and she vividly remembers her first teacher, Ms. Cookie.
“Ms. Cookie impacted my life in a way that affirmed my love of learning,” said Talitha. “She was the best preschool teacher. Her voice was different – always calm. She was nice in and out of the classroom. From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a teacher like Ms. Cookie.”
After high school, Talitha went on to study and earn her associates degree in Early Childhood Education. She worked in the field for a while before deciding to pursue her bachelor’s degree. She returned to the field working as a teacher in a private daycare center, and ultimately became the director of a center. While she was serving in that role, she went on to pursue her master’s degree.
“You learn so much by studying Early Childhood Education,” said Talitha. “The course on child psychology stands out in my head. It really opened my mind up to thinking about how the brain works, how your interactions with students plays on their development and how children learn and how our interactions impact that.”
Talitha currently works with Virginia Quality, where she serves as a technical assistant specialist, helping to coach, train and mentor childcare teachers and family home providers. In her role, she takes her experiences in the early childcare setting, and she helps equip providers with the expertise, and mental attitude, that will help them excel in their field.
“Teachers need to know that you have to be intentional in the classroom, even working down with infants. I want them to know that what differentiates them from a babysitter, which is what we get called a lot – which is not true, is that intent,” she says. “A lot of teachers don’t pursue an educational background, and that’s what helps build the intentional piece of the puzzle.”
When we asked her what would she tell a student who was interested in pursuing Early Childhood Education, she reminded us that this field has a payoff – not only today, but for many years to come.
“This is a job where what you do now will impact the future,” she said. “What you’re doing now is bigger than you think.”
*This writer’s earliest memory was of Ms. Johnson’s 2-3 year-old class at a private childcare facility in Virginia Beach. When Ms. Johnson asked the class what their favorite song was, I replied with the jingle of a discount furniture store. That got a laugh.