Recently re-elected as Council Chair for a third term, Kristine Parsons RECE is keen to help build bridges in the early learning sector, particularly among members, families and the College. With the sector still facing the challenges exacerbated by COVID, the need to create a sustainable workforce is increasingly urgent – and something she sees as a collective responsibility.
We sat down with Kristine for her thoughts on the work ahead for the Council and College, and the value of mentorship, professional learning – and joy – in fostering sustainability and community in the early years sector.
Congratulations on your re-election as Council Chair! Let’s start with a look back: what are you proud of achieving over the past two years as Chair?
Not just in my two years as Chair, but over the six years I’ve served on Council, I’ve been able to see the beginning, middle and the end of projects, including the development of two strategic plans. By the time I carry out this third term as Council member, I’ll have completed a full nine years with the College, and I’m really proud of the historical value and knowledge in that.
Looking ahead, it’s my hope that all early childhood educators, and child care owners and operators can develop a greater appreciation of how the College — in supporting the practice of its members and in protecting children and families — lifts up the profession and the professionals who work in early learning and care.
Over the past 15 years, the College has built a strong online presence through its website, resources and social platforms, where members can gather to grow their skills and knowledge in this profession. It’s a bridge to them. We are right on the cusp of that bridge building, and I want to be there to celebrate when we cross the bridge.
One of the challenges in attracting people to the profession is the public misperception around early childhood education – that it is babysitting.
Early childhood education is education but with a care component, because of the developmental age of the children. While child care has been seen to serve a need for the working parent, the narrative must include the vital importance of early education. We know that the most significant brain development happens between age zero and five. RECEs teach children how to learn. We are there for so many important milestones in their lives. There are not many jobs with the level of responsibility that ours does. Our jobs are built on relationships. Trust with children and families is the hardest to gain, and the easiest to break.
How can the College support that change in narrative?
The College is already doing it, and under the current strategic plan, we’re actively exploring more ways that we can help highlight the incredible value of RECEs and their work. If you look at the plethora of resources that are online on the College’s website (practice guidelines and notes, professional advisories, reflection guides and case studies, the Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) Program, the Sexual Abuse Prevention Program and more), you’ll understand how important an RECE’s role is.
What role can mentorship play in professional growth and in helping keep RECEs in the profession?
I’d like to think that every early childhood educator could have a champion that says, “Here’s how important and valuable this work is,” and see a positive vision of their future, the career ladder and education paths. A mentorship program is what led me to put my name forward for a role in the Council six years ago.
One of the things that I just started doing this year as part of a business education partnership in Waterloo Region is to go to high schools to talk about child development, but also about being an early childhood educator as well. There is opportunity within this profession for those who desire career advancement (e.g., assistant supervisor, supervisor).
I’d also like to see the early childhood educator who really enjoys being an early childhood educator celebrate the joy in their work. RECEs can be quick to undervalue the work that they do, but it’s so inspiring how many wonderful firsts they get to be a part of, and we need to remember to find the joy in that and champion their achievements. In carrying out their work with commitment and joy, they also provide an important model of leadership and growth for others to follow.
A key pillar of the College’s work is the Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) Program. Why is ongoing learning so important for professionals?
Engaging in ongoing professional learning and development is indicative of a person’s commitment and dedication to their profession, and that being an RECE is not just a job that RECEs “do.” There has to be something that exists within you that says, “I want to continue to read and learn about my profession.”
I think it demonstrates that there’s a leader in you if you value and want to continue professional learning. You first demonstrate leadership in your own life and in your own practice, before you attempt to be the leader for others.
What would you want RECEs to know about their career possibilities in this sector?
When RECEs consider career paths within this profession, I encourage them to tap into the aspects they enjoy most about their work, their desire for learning and their commitment to the important work that we do.
I look at my own story: I worked as a toddler teacher for years right out of school, then became a supervisor. As a centre supervisor, I decided that having some human resources courses would serve me well as a leader. In turn, I ended up creating this job for myself as a director of operations at RisingOaks Early Learning Ontario where I get to mix my knowledge of HR with pedagogy and child development. I have the best of both worlds in my job.
It’s important for RECEs to see themselves as leaders in their own right, and be their own champion and advocate. You have to be a leader if you’re going to manage 24 little people getting sunscreen on in your classroom and out the door!
Learn more about Kristine: