Kristine Parsons has served on Council at the College for six years. A year ago, Kristine was elected Chair of Council, and she’s just been re-elected to serve as Chair for a second term. With a year in the role under her belt and all the experience that goes with it, Kristine is ready to dive into her second term equipped with a clear understanding of how she and the rest of Council can help the College accomplish its goals for members, and for children and families.
When she’s not leading Council meetings or working on College business, Kristine is the Director of Operations at RisingOaks Early Learning Ontario in Kitchener. Her professional credentials in both ECE and HR are a tremendous asset on the heels of the pandemic when the profession is under significant stress and as the College looks to support RECEs in their practice and help address systemic challenges to ensure the profession is resilient and sustainable – a key objective of the new five-year strategic plan launched by the College at the beginning of July. Kristine was able to guide and contribute to the development of that plan in her first term as Council Chair and will lead the team at the College as it is put in action.
“When we look ahead at what the College is planning,” she said, “I’m very excited to see a big emphasis on building a resilient and sustainable profession. Because the profession needs that systemic support. I’ve seen so much strength and dedication among individual RECEs. I saw RECEs these past few years learning to connect beyond the usual ways with each other, children and families. Learning to navigate this world of face coverings and awkward goggles. Learning to smile with their eyes, and emphasize the positive. I have been so inspired by the passion, flexibility and resilience shown by RECEs through this challenging pandemic environment.”
Kristine agrees that in discussions about resilience, we often default to personal resilience. But what is clear to the College is that we need to shift the onus away from the individual and create a well-supported profession where our members can thrive.
“We need to build a profession where knowledgeable and experienced educators feel they can stay,” Kristine added. “A profession where we have a better set of criteria for what a quality workplace and professional recognition look like, and where our members have the resources and support they need. The Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care agreement can help, particularly for our lowest income-earners across the province. But the College, employers and individuals also have an important role in making it a reality.”
While the College and its Council are thinking big – how we make the profession a sustainable and rewarding career path for the long-term – Kristine knows that in her day-to-day role, it’s important to model self-care and self-sustainability at the individual and employer levels as well.
“At RisingOaks, we are working closely with a professional team we’ve partnered with from the YMCA WorkWell, including Dr. Kate Toth, Ph.D, CHRLa Director of Learning & Development,” Kristine said. “Dr. Kate has been teaching us the importance of taking time for ourselves. She reminds us that everyone needs to set aside time, every week, to do something just for ourselves; a pedicure, a walk in nature, dinner with friends, or whatever it is that truly feeds our souls. Something to build a reserve of resilience we can draw from when times are tough.”
Kristine has always put an emphasis on leading by example – it was the focus of her message last year. Her commitment to personal wellness and building resilience is no exception. Kristine acknowledges that she still has work to do; she works too late and spends too much time on her phone, but she is following the advice from Dr. Kate. She takes time three times a week for early-morning swimming sessions with her sister and spends as much time as she can outside on the weekends.
“It’s not always easy,” she said. “The tough days are still tough. But I hope that at the end of my time on Council, we can tell a story of professional resilience, one where we took care of ourselves and took pride in our work. One where we strengthened our profession and made it better not only for ourselves, but for future RECEs and for the children and families we serve.”