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Education & Issues

Sparking Change in Early Childhood Education

As part of TeachPlus’ founding Early Childhood Education Advisory Board, alumni Olivia Goldstein, Rachel Mayo, and Cayla Calfee Poore are advocating for our youngest learners.

Two female alumni pose in a hallway.

March 11, 2019

In the first few years of a child’s life, more than 1 million neural connections are formed every second. These first months and first years are critical to long-term development, but studies show that children from low-income backgrounds can be nearly a full academic year behind their peers when they enter kindergarten. As they continue through school, this gap only widens.

To fight this inequity, excellent, accessible early childhood education is essential. But more often than not, early childhood educators are not compensated fairly, and are not brought into key policy questions that impact their profession.

Alumni Olivia Goldstein, Rachel Mayo, and Cayla Calfee Poore are working to change that. As founding members of TeachPlus’ Early Childhood Education (ECE) Advisory Board, they are working to give voice to ECE educators. TeachPlus’ works to engage and support teacher leaders in transforming the educational system, and has a network of over 26,000 teachers nationwide. This board is the first in the organization to focus solely on ECE.

“I joined the ECE Advisory Board because I experienced first-hand the gap between policy and practice. I always felt disconnected and left-out from the policies that governed the profession. When this opportunity came up to join forces with practitioners from across the state of Illinois, I knew it was the start of something big.”

Cayla Calfee Poore

Chicago-Northwest Indiana Corps Member 2013

Olivia, Rachel and Cayla all taught early childhood education in the Chicago-Northwest Indiana corps. Olivia and Cayla are still in the classroom, whereas Rachel currently works as a Head Teacher at Herzl School of Excellence, where she coaches other ECE educators. On the board, they have two objectives. One is to engage lawmakers, building their knowledge of ECE and advocating for issues of importance to families and the ECE workforce. A main focus of this work was to bridge compensation disparities (salary, benefits, planning time etc.) between ECE settings, including home-based, center-based, and school-based. “We were able to provide crucial input about the viability of various proposals to the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood and the Illinois Early Learning Council,” says Rachel. They also pushed to change licensure policies that were disproportionately effecting people of color, and throughout their time on the board consistently gave feedback to lawmakers and politicians.

Their second task was to design TeachPlus’ ECE Fellowship, which will recruit, train, and develop early childhood educators to work collectively on identifying policy issues, creating proposals, and driving change. The goal is for this to be a standing annual fellowship program similar to TeachPlus' other policy fellowships. “I am proud to have played a role in laying the groundwork for early childhood educators from different contexts to continue to advocate for policies that will positively impact young children across the state of Illinois,” says Rachel.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that their experiences on the board gave Olivia, Rachel and Cayla a renewed commitment to creating change in the ECE space. It also drove home the importance of working side-by-side with their fellow ECE educators, a sense of collective impact that they first experienced in the corps. “Being a part of the TFA community has been powerful since the day I accepted my offer to join the corps through my journey as an alum,” says Cayla. “I appreciate the mutual respect, steadfast commitment to the work, and unique perspectives, and trust that we are always reflecting and bettering ourselves.”