Connexions Special Anniversary Edition

Celebrating 15 years of dedication and passion in early childhood education

The College of ECE is celebrating its 15th anniversary on February 14. In recognition of this milestone, we’d like to share the thoughts of two RECEs who were in the sector at the time early childhood education became a regulated profession and have since shared their time and expertise with the College in different ways.

We spoke with Millicent (Millie) Forbes RECE who has been a part of the early learning profession for more than 39 years, and Hongliang Hu RECE, who began her early childhood education career just as the College came into existence in 2009.

With more than 39 years of experience in early learning, Millie started her career as a supply teacher for Nursery Support Services and later served as an educator, assistant director and director with the YMCA of Greater Toronto and then as a Supervisor and Quality Assurance and Contract Compliance Advisor with the Region of Durham Children’s Services Division. Millie is currently an elected Council member of the College and serves on the Executive Committee.

“It means everything to me to be recognized as an accredited professional. It is a recognition of my education and training, experience, and dedication to the practice of early learning. Children, families, colleagues, the community, profession, and public know that I am accountable through the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice and there are measures in place to guide my interactions and conduct.” ~ Millie Forbes RECE

Hongliang is currently working in the Full-Day Kindergarten Program at Essex Jr. and Sr. Public School, Toronto District School Board (TDSB). She is also on the College of Early Childhood Educators’ roster of subject-matter advisors.

“I find it is not easy to adequately express the profound significance of the accreditation bestowed upon the ECE (Early Childhood Education) profession. Being recognized as an accredited professional in Ontario holds significant meaning and value. It will show the connectedness through relationships with children, families and colleagues, and accountability to the public and the profession. It will open up more opportunities for networking, collaboration and engagement with other accredited professionals, contributing to the growth and advancement of the ECE field as a whole.” ~ Hongliang Hu RECE

We also asked both to talk about why they chose to become an RECE and what they hope for the future of the profession. 

Why did you choose to become an RECE?

Millie: I became an ECE in 1984. A friend of mine had been attending Canadian Mothercraft Society (now known as Mothercraft College of Early Childhood Education) at the time. She shared her experience with me of how when you’re a part of a child’s early years, you witness and become part of a lot of their firsts – that appealed to me and sounded rewarding. On my journey of early learning, I witnessed innumerable firsts for both children and their families, students and peers. Working with children enabled me to see the world through fresh, nonjudgmental eyes, have a sense of humour and know that every day is a new one filled with fun and excitement. It was a joyful journey working with children and I never looked back. Despite all the challenges the sector faced and continues to face throughout my career, working with children has become part of my identity. I strongly believe that early childhood educators are essential contributors to healthy societies.

Hongliang: I am drawn to the profession because I have a genuine love for working with young children. The opportunity to contribute to a child’s development during their formative years can be a rewarding and fulfilling aspect of the job. Nothing beats watching a child learn to spell their name for the very first time because I taught them how. Or seeing a shy youngster start smiling when a parent drops them off because I have connected with them and they’re not afraid anymore. Each day, I am excited to be with children and passionate about what I do, and children have been excited to learn with me! As a RECE, I get a front-row seat to all those transformations and “I can do it!” moments. I know there’s always something new to discover, new to do, new to learn. That passion and drive to make a difference in their lives can also help me persevere through any obstacle I encounter in this challenging but rewarding career.

The workforce is going through a lot of challenges. What are your hopes for the future of the profession/sector? 

Millie: As I approach retirement in 2024 after 39.5 years as a practicing ECE professional, my hopes for the future focus mainly on the educators doing this work every day – to make a seven-hour work day standard across the sector; a liveable wage so sole support educators especially do not have to take on a second or third job to survive, continued financial support to attract and retain trained professionals (families and children deserve this); and sector-wide compensation such as sick benefits so educators do not have to choose between taking time without pay and coming in to work being sick. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing the evidence of many dedicated educators doing this work every day, being present for children, families, their peers and the community. They do incredible work each day and I am proud to be in the company of these incredible individuals.

Hongliang: I hope for substantial improvements for the future of the profession/sector, such as professional development, compensation, career opportunities, recognition and better working conditions for the early childhood care and education workforce because these provide some important contextual elements in the workforce. They influence those who enter and stay in the workforce, as well as the quality and effectiveness of their services for children and families. I hope to see educators elevated to the status they deserve within society. This includes acknowledgement of the crucial role they play in shaping the future and contributing to the well-being of communities.

We are grateful to Millie and Hongliang not only for taking the time to share their reflections and hopes with us as we celebrate our 15thanniversary, but also for their commitment to the profession and their ongoing contributions to our work at the College. It is an honour to work with RECEs like Millie and Hongliang to help advance the profession, and we welcome the contributions of all RECEs who have an interest in getting involved. Keep an eye on future editions of Connexions for opportunities when they arise, and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn!

More about Millie and Hongliang:

Millie Forbes is a Quality and Contract Compliance Advisor with the Regional Municipality of Durham, Children’s Services Division. There, she conducts quality assurance inspections, provides training to early learning teams, collaborates with community partners and leads sessions in various Communities of Practice. She also serves in a lead role as a facilitator for Durham Region Children’s Service Anti-Black Racism initiatives., and committee member of Best Start Durham, supporting the Early Years community in Durham.

Hongliang Hu holds both a MEd degree in Curriculum and Pedagogy and a MA degree in Early Childhood Studies (ECS). She has her Specialist qualification in Environmental Education. Her research and publication interests include early years curriculum, pedagogy, policy and practice; social research with children; nature-based education, environmental inquiry and climate change education in the early years. The combination of her academic achievement and professional experience, makes her stand out as a specialist in environmental education, contributing to the advancement of sustainable practices and environmental awareness in the early years and beyond.