Intro and Career Panel Session Transcript

October 16, 2020

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Marsha Basloe: Good morning everyone. Marsha Basloe: I am Marsha Basloe, President of Child Care Services Association, and I am thrilled to be able to welcome you to the second annual PreK and Early Care Career Expo. And how many of you were here last year, I think at Durham Tech it was really lovely. We were able to walk around. But we couldn't see everyone. And now I can actually see everyone on the screen so you know we have some positive things that come out sometimes out of new challenges.

I want to start by thanking our sponsors, you know, we're really, really fortunate to be able to have sponsors for this project for this program. So I want to thank the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Durham’s Partnership for Children, Durham County, Durham PreK, Durham Tech, UNC Greensboro, NC Central University, and I'm pleased that we're also a sponsor and a partner.

So I'm really pleased to have all of you here today, I want to just take a minute and say that every day across North Carolina, thousands of early childhood educators with wide ranging skills, wide ranging educational levels and experiences play a pivotal role in the lives of children in our state. Formal education is essential for early educators to be equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills required to cultivate the healthy growth of children.

You shape their lives, you shape our communities, and you do it because you take care of our children. So I am, you're going to have the opportunity to think about your career, you're going to think about, you know, the work that you want to do, the path that you will take, and the direction of your studies.

And that's a really exciting opportunity. So in order to have that opportunity. Those of you who were here last year. I don't know how many of you were. Can I hear - raise hands. How many were here last year.

Have a fair amount that already were here last year, we are fortunate to have again with us Rhodus Riggins, Jr.


And so for those who don't know, Rhodus, yes, it is. It is a positive. So those of you who are clapping, I, I'm with you there. Um, but I want to actually give him a little bit of an introduction. I've had the chance to do this a couple of times and I get a great thrill out of Rhodus because when I think about Rhodus, I smile, and I'm hoping that all of you will do the same. So Rhodus Riggins, Jr. is a quality enhancement coordinator at the education quality improvement and professional development project at the University of North Carolina Greensboro

And in case that's not enough. He is also adjunct faculty member at Alamance Community College, and he is the founder and co-owner of Bailey, Polis, and Riggins LLC, a racial equity organization. He has over 30 years of extensive experiences and his interests are pretty varied.

His interests include quality supports for early care and education professionals, family engagement, social emotional wellness, cultural competency, racial equity and implicit bias. I have to say that Rhodus is one of my favorite people and I am pleased to have him here, and I will turn it over to Rhodus so that he can take us to the next stage of this career. Thanks so much for coming, everyone really pleased to have you here.


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R_RIGGIN: Mrs. Marsha, how do I follow that. Good morning, everybody. Look, always pause and wait on the response. How's everybody doing?


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Celia: Doing good.


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R_RIGGIN: Doing good. Okay. One lone voice. Talk to me.


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Linda Chappel: This is a great day.


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R_RIGGIN: Is a fabulous day they go, trust me with the controls this morning. You're there could be dangerous. As Mrs. Marsha said, it is my absolute pleasure to be with me. Oops, to be with me - to be with ya’ll *laughter* The beautiful thing about this morning is that none of it is about me, we get the lift of these other beautiful voices and experiences into the space this morning.

So I am certainly honored, just to be one in the midst. Before we dive into our beautiful career panel discussion. I just wanted to continue to lay the context as Marsha has already began to this is some national data from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California at Berkeley and just really standard in that same vein, what Ms. Marsha was just thinking about.

This powerful early childhood workforce that we are all blessed and honored to be part of just thinking about the millions of adults who are caring for young children. Every single day. And we also have data that's relative to the North Carolina report card. If you have not had a chance Child Care Services [Association] has just released the 2019 North Carolina Workforce Study. So definitely spend some time with that full report, that executive summary, to get a better feel for the landscape and for the experiences of our early care and education professionals in North Carolina specifically.

While we have this vast workforce, we must also acknowledge that there are many inequities that still remain that's going to call upon all of us to become actively engaged in to address. We know for certain that the economic distress rests solely, primarily on women of color, in our field, given that our field is primarily comprised of women. I was about to say dominated by women. *laughter* Women with 40% of that at the national level, from the national perspective being women of color. Most those in the business working with infants and toddlers.

We know that there is some much needed work remaining around compensation. So spend some time with that 2019 Child Care Workforce Study, and you get a better feel for where our wages are aligning in our field. There's also this ongoing opportunity. I love to think of challenges in terms of opportunities to recruit, and to engage, and to retain men in our field.

So I would like to invite you to watch a brief, two minute video clip that's actually entitled “The Power of Men in the Early Childhood Classroom.” Miss Alex, Miss Katie, are y’all going to trust me to play this video?


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Katie Thayer: Yes. I practiced it earlier, so I think it'll work for you, too.


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R_RIGGIN: Oh god, you want to post it.


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Katie Thayer: Here we go.


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R_RIGGIN: Oh, Okay, where's my audio button.


[VIDEO] Often when males are mentioned as it relates to being in the classroom. They're often viewed as a disciplinarian know someone who's got a boys are going to listen to. And I think that there's so much more men being in early childhood classrooms and I think a lot of it has to do with the cultural context of the children. Right? so, you know, they are all bringing with them different things to the classroom, and depending on what that is, that affects how they interact and perceive a male teacher.

I think that men bring a sense of wonder to curriculum. They bring the ability to create curriculum in the interest of children and to have children be drawn to, whether it's outside or indoors activities, but they create the ability to engage children.

Students are going to be going through school at mostly female teachers, so maybe if I can just make a connection with one or two students and be a positive male role model for them. I think that can go a long way in their development as a student.

As female teachers. I really think that because we're such nurturers, we like to step in and rescue, and I really feel, in my experience, male teachers have always brought this certain kind of patience that allows kids to really be themselves and feel free to make mistakes.

Some unique aspects I bring to the early child classroom is humility. Growing up, and never really nannied or had experience with young children, as I got to college, I was very open to feedback from my professors and that generally changed my outlook of humility and it made me more confident in the classroom because I was willing to learn.

Lo que yo traigo a mi clase es enseñarles a los ninos es el respeto mutual. Cuando tenemos es el respeto mutual, podemos enseñar les mas rapido. Y podemos hacernos mas amigos y haci poder enseñarles mas conceptos que van a necesitar durante su vida.


What I bring to the class is teaching children mutual respect. When we have mutual respect, we can teach them more quickly, and we have a better relationship and in this way we can teach them more concepts they’re going to need during their life.


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R_RIGGIN: So just some powerful reminders of the critical role that men play in the life of our beautiful children and families, as well.

But I think we have done enough context setting. Want to go back to the PowerPoint and began to lift the beautiful voices of our panelists into the space this morning. Eariier I was asked, was I going to introduce them or was I going to invite them to introduce themselves. I think those who know me though that I don’t roll with trying to introduce too many people. I love people to introduce themselves.

Um, so let's go on to this very first question. Our first question would think about how our individual panelists enter the early can educational field. There are many in various paths to entering our field.

For myself, I entered the field on the health research side. Directly working with children and families, but however, not directly working in classroom settings but not in a teacher role. So I did in on the health research side of the field. And I know that my esteemed panelists also had their very own unique paths to entering the early can education field.

So I am going to invite our panelists - whoever wants to begin. This is question for every single panel member. So as you reflect and respond to this question, please feel free to introduce yourself naturally by your name. If you don't feel like being yourself this morning. Just make up a name. Just make sure that that you own it. But describe your path in early care and education. How did you arrive in this field? So naturally, introduce yourself by name and role, and then please feel free to respond to this question. This is a question for each panel member to respond to. And I'm gonna leave it open for whoever wants to begin.


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karissal: I'll talk if nobody wants to start. Good morning everybody. My name is Carissa Livingston, I am a healthy social behavior specialist with CCSA. I'm so happy to be here with you this morning and talk to you a little bit about my career in early childhood education.

My career actually started before it even really began, and I started when I was young, as the neighborhood babysitter, and just fell in love with working with young children, and it slowly developed throughout the years from there. I graduated from San Diego State University in California with a degree in Child and Family Development and pursued my career shortly after.

Working with military facilities, I worked with Neighborhood House Association, which is a head start entity in San Diego. And had just some wonderful, wonderful opportunities there. And then I moved to North Carolina and landed with CCSA and it's been nothing but a true blessing. I have a very supportive team of leaders and colleagues. And that's, in short, how my career path has kind of led me here.


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R_RIGGIN: Thank you.


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You're welcome.


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R_RIGGIN: Don't be shy, I’ll start calling names.


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Leslie: I'll go ahead. I'm Leslie Ball and my career path started after graduating from Appalachian State University with a degree in birth through kindergarten education. I moved to Raleigh and started teaching in a pre-K exceptional children's class. From there, I may moved to a kindergarten class and figured out I like the younger children. So even younger than kindergarten.

So I moved back to pre-K and at the time it was More At Four, but currently NC Pre-K, classroom and from there I met lots of wonderful people here in Raleigh, and began networking and as our Early Educators Support Office formed, I realized that I really wanted to help support teachers. So that's how I ended up as a mentor and evaluator with Early Educators Support Office at ECU.


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R_RIGGIN: Beautiful Miss Leslie. Thank you.


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Gina Allen-Prince: Good morning, I’ll go next. My name is Gina Allen. I am a Durham PreK Lead Teacher at White Rock CDC. My journey to becoming an early childhood educator began before I even realized it. From an early age, I've always worked with some, youth, the age of 17. I received my undergraduate degree in psychology with the dream of first becoming a child psychologist. After earning my psychology degree from UNC Pembroke, I began working with at risk youth - middle school or high schoolers.

I did that for about three years and realized I had a desire to work with younger kids. So then I entered the mental health field - working with families with children ages five to eight that had been identified as parents and challenges and also had family history of mental health challenges.

While working in mental health, I became pregnant with twins. And that was scary. And then realized that, oh, childcare is very expensive. I decided to stay at home and return to school and received my master's degree in early childhood education. And so that's how I ended up as a pre-K teacher.


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R_RIGGIN: How old are your twins today Mrs. Gina?


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Gina Allen-Prince: Um, my twins today are 12 and they're actually my middle kids. I have a 20 year old, a sixteen, the twins are 12 and an 11 year old.


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R_RIGGIN: Beautiful. Thank you.


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Valerie Person: I'll go next. My, my name is Valerie Person and I am a infant toddler specialist with Child Care Services Association. My journey started very young. I knew what I wanted to do. I can remember being under that cherry tree at my house playing school, I would go and get my all my little cousins and we would play school up under there. And so I just kind of went from there. I knew.

I went to school at Appalachian State University where I got my BS degree in early childhood. And I also when I left there and went directly into working in a childcare center. So I have been a teacher, a floater, system director, I have been an assistant kindergarten teacher. So I have kind of done it all. So I still keep that with me because when I go home, my family. We have events they look for me, you know, Valerie's got the hula-hoops in the car and the bubbles and all that so, always loved working with young children.


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R_RIGGIN: You're prepared Mrs. Valerie.


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Valerie Person: Always


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R_RIGGIN: Thank you.


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Shekema Crawford: Good morning. My name is Shekema Crawford. I am the Program Manager at Exchange Family Center for the EChO program, which stands for early childhood outreach. So my career path started at an early age. I started babysitting in the neighborhood. Went into high school, and one of my elective courses was early childhood education. And so my career built from there.

I graduated with an associate's degree in early childhood education, got opportunity to move to Missouri. And started there as a child care center teacher at a university and then moved into my first role at a Head Start. Really enjoyed Head Start. Loved that.

With the military, we ended up moving into Georgia, So I had opportunity to become the center director for a childcare center in Georgia. And while doing that, I decided to take a break, I had two young little boys. So to kind of take a break from that managerial role, I decided to become a Pre K teacher in Georgia.

I moved back to North Carolina, and began my career as a resource teacher in Cumberland County with a partnership for children and then I decided I'm going to go ahead and start working on my bachelor's degree So I worked on my bachelor's degree in psychology in 2010. I was able to also receive a position with a Head Start in Raleigh as an education disability specialist. Kept on going. Moved into a center director role. In the midst of that center director role, I was like, Okay, I'm going to take this even further.

I enjoyed working with special needs children. Getting them the services that they're needing, working with those parents. So I decided to get my master's degree in education with a specialization in Special Education and after that in 2014 I decided I was gonna go one more time and got my master's degree in organizational management and public administration.

And I've held those roles of center director, education disability specialist, assistant director for a head start program. I was an early intervention service coordinator for the CDSA, and now I'm filling this role as a program manager for the EChO program. Beautiful Mrs. Shekema. Beautiful. Yes, working with children with special needs this one of my passion as well.


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R_RIGGIN: Alright, we're down to the remaining voices.


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Marcus Blackwell (Marcus/He/Him/His): I'll start. My name is Marcus Blackwell I'm from University of North Carolina Greensboro where I work as the University Coordinator.

So I started my path in early childhood education at the community college level. I went to school at Piedmont Community College, that's in Person county, city of Roxboro. And I did a few years in the early childhood program. And then I went to UNC-G where I focused in the human development in Family Studies Program, early care and education. Then I went back and got my license. Then I went back to the Piedmont Community College and worked in the lab school there for four years and then transferred Back to UNCG in the childcare program that's on campus there, which also runs as a lab school. So my career has mostly been in the lab school field.

And now I'm an adjunct faculty member at Alamance Community College and at UNCG in both early childhood and human development.


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R_RIGGIN: Thank you, Brother Marcus and I get to be together in many circles. I'm always an honor.


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Maggie Connolly: Okay, I'm Maggie Connolly I'm technical assistance manager here at CCSA. I believe I'm the only white [hair] here on the panel. So I need you to get into a time machine with me and go back in time where I was. Born and raised in a large Irish Catholic family in Chicago and, like Valerie, that's where I knew I wanted to be with kids because I was surrounded with kids. And so when I went to school, there weren't many programs in early childhood education. And so I and studied in home economics education and Family Services. That’s what you got your degree in then.

I started teaching in the city. When I got out for a hospital sponsored childcare program where I was. It was in a renovated apartment building across the street from the hospital where I was able to teach the children of the neurosurgeons there as well as the janitors. So it was a true melting pot of all races and abilities and it taught me that I didn't know anything. I needed to go back to school and back then.

There was a graduate program on East Coast and a graduate program on the West Coast. So I just applied to one because you just tried once. And I got into the west coast in Santa Barbara and got my master's degree in early childhood at UC Santa Barbara, so since that time, ages ago I, like many of the people on the panel, have done a little bit of everything. I've been a teacher of all age groups, a director, teacher director, consultant, trainer, education coordinator, coach, mentor.

There's so many things you can do within early childhood. Really I've worked in state sponsored programs, county sponsored, university sponsored, hospital sponsored, full day, half day, nursery schools, research institutions, you name it. It's a great place to be.


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R_RIGGIN: Bless you Mrs. Maggie. It’s so good to see you. And Maggie, like me, Maggie’s also one of our former FPG Child Development Institute buddies in partner. We worked together for many years.


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R_RIGGIN: There so as Maggie answered, there are so many different things you can do with an early childhood degree. I experienced that myself. From entering the field as a research assistant, becoming a technical assistant, becoming inclusion specialist, becoming a coordinator. It's just, the opportunities are endless. We love you and need many about individuals in the classroom level, but you do need that classroom experience - those opportunities to work directly with children and families, but after that the path of sorta unlimited. Did we get to hear from all our panelists.?


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Kara Turner: We got one more.


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R_RIGGINS: Ms. Schquita? Oh two more.


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Kara Turner: Kara. This is Kara.


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R_RIGGIN: Oh hey love, how are you?


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Kara Turner: Great. Glad to be here. Good morning. My name is Kara Turner and I was born into childcare growing up, my mother had a child care center in our home and then it moved to our church. And I remember on Friday evenings. We had to break it down for church service on Saturday and Sunday. Then Sunday evening we had to go back in and set it up, and I just remember growing up saying, I would never ever do this. It’s hard work.

So then when I went to college. My mother and sister opened a daycare center and during the summers, I became more involved in, but I still vowed that I would never do it went to college. Thought I would work in corporate America. And my senior year in college, all my friends were applying to graduate school and they all knew what they want to do. And I was like, Well, I don't want to go to school anymore. And so my mom said, well, look, we have a family business. Just come, you know, try it out.

So I did. I started working in the summer camp and then just, you know, once you're in, you're in. And so eventually. My sister and I opened Primary Colors. Which I own right now I have two Primary Colors Early Learning Centers. And then have bought, sold. I've just done - So much most of my experience has been on the business side. But I still directed, like I direct one of my centers right now, and two years, two days ago, my mom retired and I bought her center. So it has come full circle. And so even though I said I wouldn't do it, what 27 years later, I'm still here and enjoying it.


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R_RIGGIN: And Karen look we go through full disclosure this morning, when I first started working. One of my first sites was Triangle Day Care, with Ms. Annie, and Tracy and all of you. So I had the opportunity to grow up with y’all. Ya’ll took me in as family.


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Kara Turner: That’s, Miss Annie, she has a legacy in Durham. Yes. I can't go anywhere. That was the other thing every time we went somewhere. She had to stop and talk


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R_RIGGIN: And Miss panky.


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Yes. My kids get mad at me today because I stop and talk and, you know, see all my old family so it's just, you know, full circle now so


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R_RIGGIN: It's full circle. Wonderful. Wonderful. So good to see you.


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Kara Turner: Good to see you too. And you make me smile all the time.


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R_RIGGIN: Would you say hey to my peeps.


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Kara Turner: I will.


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R_RIGGIN: Okay. All right, so we have Ms. Kara, who else is missing. Okay so silence gives consent. I think we've had an opportunity to hear about the diverse experiences and entries and journeys in the early car and education field. At the beginning of this session, I started beginning to a knowledge that you know some of the inequity still exists, but some of the stereotypes and misconceptions and perceptions still reside in this field as well. And this is an open question for the panelists members to respond. You don't have to respond in any order. It is an invitation, but any panelist to respond.

So what are those common misconceptions that we are still battling and combating in our field, in our work?


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Leslie: I’ll go with that one. One of the most common misconceptions is that all we do is play and we are glorified babysitters, and that is not the case. And so one of the ways I feel like we can combat those misconceptions is to really be able to advocate and articulate why we do what we do and the impact that we have on children and families. So really educating not just the children and families, but also the community about the importance of early childhood education.


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R_RIGGIN: Thank you, Miss Leslie. Thank you.


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Valerie Person: I'm gonna piggyback off of what Leslie was saying that - was what I was going to say – when, you know, they always think that we're babysitters, and we're not. So one of the things I feel like we can do is continue to build ourselves professionally in our development and I learning so that we can educate parents and those around us that no, we're not babysitters, but we're brain builders. So we're at this networking party you're talking, no, we build brains.

We start off very, very young, so that when they get older. They don't act like they should, you know, I would, I would say, fool. I guess I can. I'm not in church. but they will be better educated when they're in front of people. I always believe in that song. It says, you know, “I believe that children are our future.” And if we start when they are young, they will build a better future for us.


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Valerie Person: Beautiful, beautiful.


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Marcus Blackwell (Marcus/He/Him/His): One of the things that I think is a misconception or two is that people think that this work is easy and that anyone can do it. Everybody is not built to be an educator, especially in early childhood educator, and then, coming from the community college, university level, um, I think sometimes we have to also be stricter on who we’re letting [into] the field. And that's something that we have to talk about, um, where do we say no on and how to, how do we strengthen our profession.

We have a mass field of early childhood educators, now what do we do with them? Do we keep accepting new people that we have to constantly train or do we pour into the people that are there and build them up professionally. So those are some of the things that I think we need to start talking about, as well as, like, do we become like the nursing field? Do we become like the medical professionals, Do we say, “No, you are not able to be a teacher because you're not strong enough?” I mean, those are things we have to be honest with, um, because I think we end up fighting all of these misconceptions and trying to prove ourselves, and trying to prove ourselves but we keep on putting the same people in the field that are not ready to be teachers. So that's my, that's my truth so.


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R_RIGGIN: That that's so real dilemma Marcus, so, so thank you for lifting that into the space this morning. So thank you, sir.


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Gina Allen-Prince: Agreeing with Marcus, and I must say that one thing that we need to come together as early childhood educators. I've noticed in my experience, we, I have a tendency to others have the taste of just picking one group, instead of sharing your experiences sharing what you learn at different times with other childhood educators.

And in doing that, we will strengthen this part of educators. I think that's something that we need to all work towards - is actually sharing the information that we receive instead of holding on to it for ourselves.


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R_RIGGIN: Thank you, Miss Gina. Thank you.


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Maggie Connolly: I just want to say that I totally agree with everything everybody took the words out of my mouth, but


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Maggie Connolly: It. Um, it seems like this job is so easy, but it's not easy. You have the talent, knowledge, and skills to do it, and the only way we're gonna raise up this field, is for all of us to believe in that, that we know that and then to advocate. Advocate. That is easy - advocating is.


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R_RIGGIN: And it requires passion and compassion to remain - to remain.

Let’s, Let’s, … is so critical. Thank you. Thank you. Beautiful panelists for your responses to that question.


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R_RIGGIN: There is no way that we can engage in these conversations this morning without acknowledging the current context and trends that are influencing us, both influencing our work, and that are influencing us personally, and influencing us professionally. We know that we have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. We know that we are being greatly impacted by this great state of social unrest related to race and critical issues of race and racism.

So if you had to think about current trends and perhaps those may have been the two current trends that you identified yourself. What are some of these critical trends and issues that are influencing our field today and how these issues influencing your role and how they’re influencing you as a human being.


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Kara Turner: Well, this, this is Kara. I think it depends on who you ask. In my case, I would say the recruitment hiring and retention of, you know, highly qualified and skilled teachers. But another thing that really concerns me is access. Access to affordable childcare for every child. It seems like, now and I've been saying this for a couple of years, is like the “haves” have quality childcare the “have nots” do not have quality childcare. And it's, you know, then the people who fall in the middle. It's just, you know, if you can't afford it, then, of course, your cares not going to be as high quality as a five star NAEYC accredited center. So that that's a concern of mine is just how can we have affordable childcare, for everyone to have access to affordable childcare.

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R_RIGGIN: But that's, that's a major equity issue, Mrs. Kara. So thank you for letting that into the space.


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Shekema Crawford: Also concerns and issues that fall into that is along with Kara was saying, having as that shortage of educators, they actually want to be in the field and actually want to be successful in that field. But also having that lack of funding to support those educators with them to understand, and for the communities to understand that early childhood education is not a playground. It really is a profession that takes a lot of pouring in, it takes a lot of sweat and tears and a lot of dedication on those parts of those educators and having that support.


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R_RIGGIN: Thank you, Ms. Shekema. Thank you.


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R_RIGGIN: Thank you. Any other issues trends that we must be aware of?


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Marcus Blackwell (Marcus/He/Him/His): I was gonna, I was gonna piggyback on Kara, and Shekema, as well. Is that, um, funding is necessary. Funding from from the government just poured into the early childhood field is important and necessary. That's the only way that we can - That's, that's one of the ways that we can provide the infrastructure for current programs and new programs to give access to all children. And if you're thinking about the high quality programs that we have now - we have a lot of high quality programs - but they don't have the infrastructure to meet those needs of those children on the outskirts. Um and to be able to pull them in, you don't have the space. We don't have the amount of teachers. We don't have the necessary … possibly don't have transportation to get those children on to those spaces. Is a big thing as well. And I think that children of - that need our assistance and need our help are losing and we need to find a way to get there. So I think government support is definitely key for all programs, not just some programs.


00:43:28.320 --> 00:43:47.730

R_RIGGIN: Beautiful Marucs. And we can't expect that funding to be placed on the backs of programs, are not the backs of the programs, but it's also at the expense of the - critical expense of the teachers. So yeah, that trilemma of childcare is real what parents can afford to pay, what teacher compensation, as well as the quality that is provided, and it will take federal funding and support to achieve many of our goals.

Um, let's circle back around to these are these beautiful education experiences that you described as you introduce yourself. And I think we might have thought a have thought of danced around this questions. Just wanted to come back to say, are there any remaining comments about how your experiences have progressed and have built upon each other. I think we shared quite a bit of this will be shared our introduced ourselves, then share the various roles that we had had the opportunity and honor to be engaged in


00:44:40.350 --> 00:45:03.000

Leslie: A shared just a little bit emphasizing how having a variety of experiences in different early childhood settings and meeting lots of people networking kind of leads and opens doors and other areas, even outside of the classroom. So I think that's something you know we want to start a lot of, you know, in the classroom with experiences and really having that one-on-one with children and families, and then the doors open. There are lots of opportunities and lots of different venues to venture out to.


00:45:23.220 --> 00:45:24.450

R_RIGGIN: Thank you, Miss Leslie


00:45:26.400 --> 00:45:34.440

Gina Allen-Prince: This is, you know, piggybacking on Leslie, that's actually how I ended up as a pre-K teacher. Like I said earlier, I had stayed home and received my master's degree because I’d not been able to afford child care. And so once my twins were selected into the NC Pre-K program, I began volunteering in their classroom, and just taking it upon myself to create different activities for the kids. And the owner of the facility actually saw what I was doing and offered me a position.

And I ended up in a position and from there working with Leslie and Dr. Williamson. They encouraged me to present because I did a lot of STEM in my classroom. And they're like, well, how about you present at our next conference. And I did that. And from that opportunity. Someone, didn't even know the person was in the audience, went back and told my current director about me and I ended up applying for a position there. And that's how I ended up at my new position where I'm at now.

And with that, the support of the director. He encouraged me to go back to school. And so I end up receiving my Admin. So literally just because of different opportunities, I'm here.


00:46:46.590 --> 00:46:48.000

R_RIGGIN: Thank you, Mrs. Gina thank you.


00:46:49.980 --> 00:46:55.830

Valerie Person: I have to go back to what Gina was saying. You just never know who's watching you. I mean, you can be in a classroom today working with another teacher right beside of you and five and ten years later, you know, they may be in a position that they maybe your manager today where you work with them before. So you just never know when you step foot or you're in the community who is watching you. And like minded people stay with like minded people. And what I mean by that is when you have the same passion, when they see that you truly care about children and that that you're mission to make sure that they're successful, that's how you move about in this in this field to me.


00:47:28.710 --> 00:47:29.970

R_RIGGIN: And that’s so true Mrs. Valerie. I had the opportunity to witness it myself over the years. Working directly with teachers and family care professionals, and then I've seen their growth and as they transition to new roles, becoming North Carolina relicensing assessors, becoming community college instructors. That they take those - and I just tell them, take those knowledge and skills and experiences with them as they transition to these new opportunities.

So yeah, I'm all about growth all the opportunities on the one who always says I'm free. I'm free and available to a good home that's always been my life mantra. Yeah. We talked a little bit about higher education, higher education has benefitted y’all so greatly. You're looking at a person who graduated grad school at the age of 50. I went back myself through the beautiful TEACH scholarship in the Race to the Top funds when they, well they still are, for the master's program at UNCW and I was fortunate enough to be in that first cohort myself. And actually, that was my 50th birthday - was receiving my master's degree I had this long working career between bachelor's and master's, so that benefit up around the opportunity for me to begin teaching at the community college, so even I have seen as I continue to grow personally or professionally, the benefits of higher education in my own life. So how has higher education benefited y’all? This is an open question.


00:49:10.380 --> 00:49:16.410

Maggie Connolly: I'll start by saying, you know, cha-ching. It's obviously a little bit of the money.


00:49:16.860 --> 00:49:17.220

R_RIGGIN: Little bit, okay.


00:49:18.870 --> 00:49:31.110

Maggie Connolly: But it can, you know, considering going from little to a little bit more, a little bit more is good. Um, but what I found, besides the things that you mentioned Rhodus, that it gave me more knowledge into the very things that I cared so much about, you know, a deeper dive into the important work that I'm doing. It is It lifts you up, and it opens doors, lots of doors.

And I want to say one thing about this career is you've got job security for the rest of your life, because - all over the world. And I know, having been in every part of the country, that you can go wherever you want, and find children who need you and find things to do to help them.


00:50:09.870 --> 00:50:18.060

R_RIGGIN: Thank you Mrs. Maggie. That, that's a key question because our professional knowledge base is constantly changing and we must adapt. We must challenge the traditional ways that we that we teach and define quality and challenge those common normative approaches to explore those new approaches are supporting our children and family. So, so thank you.


00:50:40.290 --> 00:50:46.020

Leslie: I went back to school in January. After 20 some years out of college. I am in the master's program at East Carolina right now. I'm taking, I'm taking my third class and it is, I had to relearn how to be a college student, while working full time. I have young children at home. Also. Um, but in addition to, you know, professionally and continuing to dive deeper and my learning. It's been really great for my middle school age son to see his mama working hard. He's made comments, you know, you have to study, you have to do work, you have time management, all these things. Um, so in addition to learning more and diving deeper into early childhood. It's also helping my children see what a hard working mama looks like.


00:51:38.730 --> 00:51:46.560

R_RIGGIN: That's beautiful Mrs. Leslie, you pulled a Rhodus. I had that 20 something years of work experience before going back, also, but it benefits you. You make it real. So, so well done. Well done.

Any other comments about the benefits related to the benefits of higher education on your career and your journey?


00:52:01.650 --> 00:52:03.150

Valerie Person: I have to say I'm sorry I know I keep talking. But I love of learning because this is one thing that has made my job so much better - so much easier. Um, when I knew why I was doing what I was doing, why am I talking to the children so much? Why am I, you know, down on the floor with them on their level? That that taught me so much more when I learned about the brain development. And exactly oh playing? Oh yeah, that's how they're learning.

So that was what helped me. Um, I went back to school after 20 some years to get a master’s degree. My now I'm in a master’s certificate program with UNCG, the little project, and I have learned so much and everything changes. Things change, information changes. And this keeps me up on what's going on in early childhood.


00:52:53.160 --> 00:53:08.070

Valerie Person: So it's definitely needed. I know it's not easy when you're working full time. But if I can do it, anybody can do it, because I mean, like I said, it was like 27 years when I went back for my master’s, and if I can do it, you can do it.


00:53:10.770 --> 00:53:11.010

R_RIGGIN: That’s what I tell them too Mrs. Valerie. Oh bless us. Thank you. Love. Thank you. Let's do


00:53:17.820 --> 00:53:18.060

Marcus Blackwell (Marcus/He/Him/His): This


00:53:18.480 --> 00:53:19.800

R_RIGGIN: Oh, yes, yes.


00:53:20.280 --> 00:53:20.640

I was gonna say that, um, the benefits of education on my career. Just coming from a community college perspective, and also teaching in the Community College, I'm always trying to push them and say, look, this is what's going to happen. This is what you need.


00:53:38.340 --> 00:53:49.110

Marcus Blackwell (Marcus/He/Him/His): To get them ready for a bachelor's degree for when they transfer. To also talk about getting their master’s, if that is something that is of interest to them.


00:53:49.920 --> 00:54:06.090

Marcus Blackwell (Marcus/He/Him/His): Coming from UNCG we had a very thorough, we had a very thorough program, in my opinion, that taught me a lot. Also those experiences working in those lab school experiences, and using a philosophy of UNCG HDFS, as well as CCEP, child care education program on the campus. I've always been able to benefit from that, from that education - those educational pursuits.

And getting my masters of arts in Liberal Studies. I don't have a master’s in early childhood education, but a master’s in liberal studies, um, that got me in the door, but my experiences, my connections to people in early childhood field, got me in the door to teaching those community college classes and those university classes.

So making connections building relationships is very important, especially in early childhood, so people will know that the work that you do is important and they will put you in the door. They will give you those opportunities to share your experiences and to also teach others. So make those connections and build relationships with people that you're learning from.


00:55:08.310 --> 00:55:12.900

R_RIGGIN: Thank you. Marcus and I feel it’s vast, but it's a very small field. We are trying to navigate in the same circles. So those relationships are critical. Are critical.

Lets to a little forecasting. Thinking about how our field has changed and thinking about what changes may be required to advance our field. And this is an open question by esteemed panelists as well. How has the field changed?


00:55:49.980 --> 00:55:58.920

karissal: I'll talk on this a little bit. I think that, you know, along the way, that there's been more certifications more things required of teachers of directors and so, you know, we talked about higher education of ourselves, but it's also of our teachers. And so, you know, providing them with trainings, providing them with PLCs, is providing them with coaching - It's absolutely necessary and teachers are starting to have to do these things. It's slow, right? It's not, it's not overnight that these things are happening but it is happening. And there are higher requirements for teachers, which later will hopefully lead to more pay and all of those things that we've talked about today, but really just educating the teachers on a higher level.


00:56:30.870 --> 00:56:40.380

R_RIGGIN: Mrs. Karissa, that was the first thing I wrote down as well. The requirements have shifted, yet the salaries have only changed slightly so yeah, I'm with you in that spirit of hope. And as we, you know, expect more, encourage more, that we will potentially have, one day, have, you know, funding to our knowledge, our teachers’ commitment and effort and their energy


00:57:04.680 --> 00:57:12.120

karissal: Yeah, you know, and just as what Valerie said earlier, piggybacking on her, she know she said we're all like-minded people as we're going through these questions, I think all of us - I've had all these same responses that everyone said written down in my notes and we are all very like-minded people so, you know, the fact that you wrote that down as well. That doesn't surprise me. We're all pretty much on the same page here. So, it just loops me back to really advocating. aDvocating for ourselves, for our teachers, for one another, and the biggest way to build knowledge is to spread knowledge and keep having these conversations, you know, whether it's in the classroom amongst colleagues, with higher leadership statewide level, so thank you.


00:57:43.740 --> 00:57:50.280

R_RIGGIN: I agree, Mrs. Karissa. Thank you and that funding is one critical change that must be made to advance our field.


00:57:54.750 --> 00:57:59.760

Valerie Person: I'm hoping that through all of this is COVID-19 that they see that we are essential. We are and essential profession. So I'm hoping some changes will come from this.


00:58:09.090 --> 00:58:10.920

R_RIGGIN: Yes, Mrs. Valerie. Yes.

Any other essential change that may be needed to advance our field? I know we talked about the critical role of funding, and that being federal funding, government funding to advance our field.


00:58:30.000 --> 00:58:35.940

Shekema Crawford: Some of the same things that Karissa had, but along with that. I thought about some of the changes that has happened in the last five or ten years with the additions of the universal pre K, and making sure you’re having those family engagements, and those family partnerships, and trying to close that achievement gap. And the technology now that's being added into the classrooms, and the support that's going to be needed. It's going to have to go along with that funding to support all of those growths that's happening for those children to get them ready.


00:58:59.130 --> 00:59:04.860

R_RIGGIN: Thank you Mrs. Shekema, thank you. Mrs. Maggie was speaking but her mic was muted.


00:59:05.130 --> 00:59:09.930

Maggie Connolly: Sorry, I just wanted to, of course, you know, raise the issue of equity, you know, not just accessibility, but racial equity and all types of equity. That's a focus now that should have been there a long time ago with a long way to go. That's, that's, that's new and we have to be the leaders in how do we change and help the teachers understand and change, and help the families. There's a lot of work to be done in the in the, related to equity.

Yes, Miss Maggie and some critical question that we must ask and answer. And one of those being, can equity be achieved? In these existing systems that have been built on structural, structural racism and do we need new systems.


01:00:05.010 --> 01:00:06.090

Marcus Blackwell (Marcus/He/Him/His): New systems.


01:00:06.420 --> 01:00:07.080

Shekema Crawford: New systems.


01:00:07.410 --> 01:00:08.910

R_RIGGIN: We need new systems.


01:00:09.990 --> 01:00:10.770



01:00:11.310 --> 01:00:13.140

R_RIGGIN: I'll breathe out, breathe on that one.

Oh god. So our last. Thank you. Our last question.


01:00:18.750 --> 01:00:19.740

Kara Turner: Excuse me, It's Kara.


01:00:19.980 --> 01:00:22.620

R_RIGGIN: Oh yes Mrs. Kara, Yes, love.


01:00:22.710 --> 01:00:36.900

Kara Turner: Just thinking about Shekema and her job right now is, I've noticed, I think we've all noticed that children need more social, emotional support now. That's been a big trend and just putting more emphasis on that in the classroom.


01:00:38.100 --> 01:00:40.920

R_RIGGIN: And more trauma- informed approaches is another area that's necessary to support our children and families.


01:00:49.230 --> 01:00:55.500

Leslie: As well as the social, emotional well-being and the self-care of our educators. I think that's especially over the past, you know, going through COVID and even  that, um, you know, the stress and the hard work that we're doing really requires us to really take care of ourselves so that we can take care of the young children and families.


01:01:17.730 --> 01:01:19.980

R_RIGGIN: And Miss Leslie culturally responsive self-care, where the systems are supporting the individuals to take care and honor themselves as opposed to putting responsibility for self-care on their individual shoulders. So we need culturally responsible self-care.


01:01:42.300 --> 01:01:44.070

R_RIGGIN: Did I miss, did I miss a comment?


01:01:45.180 --> 01:01:50.340

Gina Allen-Prince: I want to say something, this is Gina talking, going along with what Shekma was saying about the technology piece with the experience of COVID and now everything is online. I think incorporating more STEM and technology in early childhood will help them as far as giving them that foundation of how the world is shifting in our reality.  More things are becoming online so giving them that foundation in early childhood. Introducing them to the idea of technology in a different world, a different world.


01:02:22.860 --> 01:02:24.240

R_RIGGIN: And, and sadly the COVID-19 pandemic supported us and recognizing the inequities that exist around technology. So yes, thank you Miss Gina.

So our remaining question, and this is a question that we will cover in our remaining four minutes, and I would love to invite each member of our panelists to respond.

So what advice do you hope you would have received earlier in your career?


01:02:59.250 --> 01:03:00.930

karissal: I'd like to speak on this a little bit. So two things I you know I received the, the, you know, you're not going to make much money being in this career and I, you know, told my parents, “It's fine. Passion prevails.” Right? But, you know, just to piggyback what everybody else is saying nobody told me how hard this work is going to be, and how tired you're going to be and how tired, you're going to be to come home to your own family, and to your own child, and have to still work your field at home.

And the other thing is, nobody told me that you're going to walk into different centers throughout your career, and they're all going to look very different. You're going to be exposed to so many different situations. I moved from California, where I was in this diverse population, all my classrooms had all different babies in it, you know, different cultures, different ethnicities, different languages, and it was just very immersed. And then I came to North Carolina, there's been centers, I walked into that were the complete opposite. So I had a little bit of culture shock when I moved here, and nobody told me that nobody told me along the way you are going to walk into centers that may be different in terms of income and culture and population and all these things.

And yes, I've been so much beautiful experience from it but going back to the question before, you know, what are we required to do to advance in our field: have more diversity in our classrooms. And I'm not going to go down the whole rabbit hole of racism right now, but it starts in the classroom when the children are young. And we have got to diversify our classrooms and immerse our families with culture. So that's the advice that I wish I would’ve received. You know, how to advocate a little bit more for that and how to really just get classrooms to that level of diversity and culture that we're asking for amongst adults.


01:04:54.330 --> 01:04:56.010

R_RIGGIN: Beautiful Miss Karissa. Thank you.


01:04:56.400 --> 01:04:57.180

karissal: You're welcome.


01:04:59.010 --> 01:05:05.220

R_RIGGIN: Other words of wisdom advice that you would have received early on.


01:05:05.730 --> 01:05:11.040

Valerie Person: You know, I have to pick it back off a Karissa, because as an old soul, nobody told role was going to be easy, but I have to say nobody told me that I would go into that classroom and fall in love with those children. And nobody told me I would go in that center who didn't have. And I wanted to pull from my pocket to help them. And nobody told me that no matter how less money I was making, that I would still be in this field today because I love it. And because what we do is so important.

We are making a difference in the lives of young children and even the caregivers that they are that are teaching them. So nobody told me, but I'm glad that you know they didn't because then I got to learn it on my own and then make up my mind that this truly what I want to do.


01:05:57.180 --> 01:06:07.920

R_RIGGIN: Yes Mrs. Valerie. For me it was like nobody told me I was gonna be the only male in these spaces. Oh, nobody told me I was gonna be the only diverse male, the only black male, but it's been so such an honor. I love how the children just started calling me Mr. Rhodus when I started 30 years ago now they call me Pawpaw. Now I’m Pawpaw to them

So, yes. Any other advice that you hoped you would have receive?


01:06:22.980 --> 01:06:32.040

Marcus Blackwell (Marcus/He/Him/His): I would like to say that, like you Rhodus, I didn't know that I was going to be the only black male in the classroom. I didn't know that was, that's what I was going to see on a regular basis. Um, but I have seen black males in the classroom, multiple black males in the classroom, especially in the county, um, and it's, it feels good.

I must have been really lucky having the professors that I did at Piedmont Community College in at UNCG because I felt like they prepared they prepared us enough to where they said, “you need to know who you are, before you go into the classroom. You need to know what your philosophy of teaching means so you can be able to share that with your children and your families and other teachers around you.” And I think that's one of the biggest thing is to know who you are before you go into that classroom. What your beliefs are.

And also one of the things that I tell all of my students who are in those last moments of, before graduation is to -  and they're looking for jobs - be picky and I think Chris, I think, is it Karissa? Was saying that, um, you didn't know who - what those classrooms are going to look like before you stepped into them, but to be picky in where you go and teach, because it's hard to go into a space where they don't meet your philosophy and they don't feel the same way you are. It's only going to drain you. You need to go somewhere where you feel supported and your philosophy supported as well. So be picky in the places that you choose to work or to be employed or to fill your time with because it is draining. Early childhood education can be draining and it pulls all of your emotions out every day. When you go into that classroom you're pouring yourself into these children, because that's what you love to do, it can be draining. And you need to be able to go back to places that  you lov and that you feel supported. So you can do it the next day as well.


01:08:26.100 --> 01:08:28.260

R_RIGGIN: beautifully said.


01:08:28.410 --> 01:08:38.940

Gina Allen-Prince: Can I add, real quick, I wish someone would have said, “remember, you may not impact every child and family, the way you envisioned that you would impact them, but just impacting one can be just as effective.”


01:08:40.200 --> 01:08:41.040

R_RIGGIN: Beautiful. Well. I'm going to personally thank my esteemed, beautiful panelists. So many of you, as I said, I have known for years. So many of you watched me grow up in this field from this smallest kiddy, young little lad from low country of South Carolina in 1990.

It has been an honor being witheEach of you this morning. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Thank you for sharing your advice. Thank you for sharing your journey. And most of all, thank you for imparting your wisdom and your inspiration to others. So on behalf of Child Care Services, I want to thank Mrs. Shekema Crawford, Mrs. Karissa Livingston, Mrs. Kara, oh Kara, Mrs. Gina Allen, Mrs. Leslie Ball, Mrs, Valerie Person, Mrs. Maggie Connolly, and my brother Marcus. Thank you all so much for your willingness to pour and share your experience this morning and I hope everybody can unmute themselves and let's give them a round of applause. Before we transition to our next session.

*clapping and cheers*


01:10:18.930 --> 01:10:21.450

R_RIGGIN: You will find your link for your next session that you registered for. Will they get an email Ms. Katie?


01:10:25.950 --> 01:10:34.680

Katie Thayer: It's in the chat and they will get an email, but, um, it’s in the chat or on your program, you can just go and choose either the bachelor's degree session with a master's degree session.