Advancing in the Early Childhood Field
Eric Elmore is a doctoral scholar in early childhood special education at the University of Colorado Denver. He is also an affiliate professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver and the chair of the board of directors of the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children. He has over eight years of experience working in early childhood education in various capacities including as a teacher, staff developer, coach, and community and family leader. Eric has a passion for bringing individuals into the early childhood profession and supporting them in advancing in their careers.
ED: How did you begin your career in early childhood?
I was working as a records clerk for an elementary school and wanted to become an elementary school teacher. I was looking at a brochure for a local community college and saw that if I went into early childhood, I could finish my degree more quickly. So, while I accidently stepped into the field, as I was studying to become an early childhood educator, I really fell in love! In my studies and teaching, I approached early childhood education as a science.
I taught in an early childhood classroom for eight years. I loved teaching and I loved having inclusive classrooms. All the classes I taught included children with disabilities. Some of these children had significant disabilities, others more moderate disabilities, and others milder disabilities. What I loved about this is how all the children learned together. It was such a great experience.
A friend of mine was getting a master’s degree in early childhood special education. Her program sounded interesting, so I decided to enroll in the program and join her! That is how I began working in special education, and I love it as well. At the end of my master’s degree program, I had the opportunity to enroll in a doctoral program funded by an Office of Special Education Programs grant. This grant pays for my tuition in the program. In pursuing my doctoral degree, I am furthering my passion in early childhood.
ED: What efforts have you been involved in to improve the quality of early childhood programs and services?
While I was teaching in Colorado, I participated in the Colorado Family Leadership Training Institute. One of the things that they teach you is how to be a leader within the community. As part of the program, I had to complete a service project. My service project was to work to establish a college in the Colorado for early childhood educators. The goal is to create a low-cost college option for individuals who are interested in being early childhood educators. We don’t want early childhood educators to go into debt to get a degree. While we are still working to get funding for the college, the vision is to bring people into the profession to improve the quality of early childhood education.
I have also been involved with the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children (COAEYC) Board of Directors, and of July 1st am now the chair of the Board. COAEYC has been working to improve the quality of early childhood programs in Colorado and promote policies that support high-quality programs and services for children and families. We have really been working to establish communication with the community. One way we are doing this is by holding listening sessions throughout the state to understand the needs of communities related to early childhood programs and services. We are also planning to launch a few book clubs that will focus elevating the profession.
ED: What are some of the challenges you have experienced in your work and what strategies have you tried to overcome them?
A challenge I see is that there are individuals who are not getting degrees because they can’t afford it or make it to classes when they are offered during the day. That is why I’m working on trying to create a college that has low-cost online programs.
Another challenge is getting teachers increased pay for their work. The governor of Colorado just signed a bill to get more funding for early childhood educators. As a Board member of COAEYC, I am working on this key initiative. Funding is such a huge issue.
ED: What suggestions do you have for others interested in improving early childhood services and programs?
I would like to see higher education for early childhood educators be more cost effective. We know that individuals will not make back what it cost to get a degree in this field. I would love to see policies on loan forgiveness for those who become early childhood educators.
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