Preparing for the New School Year
Mia Rutherford is a Pre-K to 4th grade teacher at Excel Academy, a public school in the District of Columbia. She begins her eighth year of teaching this school year, and currently serves as a lead teacher in the early childhood education team. Mia graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Human Development, with a focus on early childhood. She says that the best part of teaching is building community and creating meaningful experiences for our youngest learners.
How did you begin your career in early childhood?
My passion for early childhood education began when I volunteered to read to preschoolers at the age of 12. My mother, who spent her career in early childhood as an instructional coach and administrator, invited me into classrooms to read to children and help teachers. It was then that I learned early childhood classrooms were a special place and I felt at home.
When it was time for me to choose a college major and make a college decision, I was having a hard time choosing between two majors but soon realized that teaching would incorporate many of the things I was passionate about: photography, art, reading and most of all the ability to make a difference in a child’s life.
How did you prepare to start the new school year?
This year I am serving as a teacher leader to the early childhood team at the school where I work. I spent the summer planning professional development opportunities to build our capacity for high quality learning experiences for our youngest learners. Teachers came in during the summer to discuss inquiry-based learning, differentiating instruction, and developing play-based assessments that are rooted in developmentally appropriate practice. I am excited to see how this work contributes to joyful and rigorous learning experiences.
What does the new school year look like in your school/classroom?
I am excited to say that our preschool classrooms are fully enrolled this school year. Due to COVID, our classroom enrollment had been low. While this was beneficial in fostering close relationships with the students enrolled, I am happy we will be able to reach more students.
What suggestions do you have for others (e.g., parents, educators, administrators, researchers, etc.) who want to better support our youngest students?
Early childhood is a really special place and it is important to remember that children are born eager to learn. We must provide opportunities for children to engage in joyful, developmentally appropriate, and culturally relevant learning experiences to promote happy, successful, lifelong learners.
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