Celia Gomez is a member of Early Edge’s Teacher Advisory Group in Los Angeles. She has been an early childhood teacher for the past two decades and is currently the Trauma-Informed Care Advisor & Coach for Pomona Unified School District’s Child Care Resources and Referral Program. Last month, we invited Ms. Gomez to The Alliance for Early Success’ National Convening in Milwaukee, WI, where she joined our Executive Director Patricia Lozano in representing California’s ECE professionals. Ms. Gomez recounts her experience at the conference and her work advocating for Early Learning teachers and California’s ECE programs.
Representing the Teacher Experience
Attending The Alliance’s National Convening was a special opportunity for me. It was my first time sharing my teaching experience and my perspective about the future of the Early Childhood Education field as a conference presenter—and, at a national level.
Being able to participate in the conference’s opening plenary panel, Seeing the Future of the Profession through the Eyes of Today’s Educators, was a transformative experience. It reminded me of the importance of sharing our perspectives with others to create change and to inform policy makers. This experience reinvigorated my passion for advocacy as we attempt to elevate the profession.
Our panel, comprised of fellow educators from Virginia, Texas, Indiana, and Maryland, delivered a powerful message about what the field needs in order to advance the early childhood profession. By supporting its workforce with appropriate funding for compensation, health benefits, and retirement plans—combined with a system that provides support for teacher well-being such as securing safe working conditions with teacher preparation time, sick days, paid holidays, vacations, and teacher supports like coaching, self-care, and professional development opportunities—states can usher in an era of equity for educators and families alike.
It was inspiring to see the interest expressed by various stakeholders in wanting to know more about what educators need in order to professionalize the field systematically across the US. I left the panel feeling empowered and positive about the future of the ECE field becoming a recognized profession that values the important role its teachers play in the lives of young children during their most formative years.
Exchanging with Others
I am beyond grateful to have connected with other professionals who share the same vision for the future of the ECE profession. During the convening, I engaged in many valuable conversations with various educators and representatives from the participating states and left with some key takeaways:
- Many organizations and various stakeholders, including policy makers are systematically working on transforming the ECE workforce to support quality programs birth to age eight by using recent data from research conducted by ECE experts—but, seeking the input of the frontline educators is a progressive approach.
- ECE educators, including family childcare providers across the US, are ready to move the profession forward by investing in their education—whether it is by obtaining a higher degree or acquiring credentials to teach—as long as the education system presents them with financial opportunities for higher education and compensates them accordingly.
- California has the potential to be a leader in transforming the ECE field into a comprehensive, respectful, and well-compensated teaching profession because we have an ECE Champion, our governor Gavin Newsom, who has committed to a $2.5 billion-dollar total investment in early childhood development programs that will focus on the whole-child. This is something that is promising for the future of the ECE field.
The Power of the Teacher Voice
It is extremely important for teachers to share their stories with legislators and policy makers because we can influence and inform policy that is suitable for children and families. We know what resources are needed in our communities because we know our students best. Our diverse perspective helps policy makers create policy that respects the practitioners’ autonomy and supports quality Early Learning programs for all students.
My experience at the convening has encouraged me to continue my volunteer work with advocacy organizations like Early Edge California and serve in my leadership role within my Teachers’ Union. In my work with the school district, I would also like to engage in more discussions with my local and state officials to advocate for the ECE teaching profession at a national level.
I encourage my fellow educators to seek opportunities to share about the important role we play in the lives of young children, as well as to continue to share about our challenges and to advocate for the change we want to see in our profession. Being part of the decision-making process and being at the table with other stakeholders is critical, as they prepare to develop policies that directly affect the teaching profession and the learning conditions of our students—specifically young children birth to eight who may not always have a strong voice in their educational setting.