Voices From the Field: Interview with Kirsten Bilderaya

A Preschool Teacher’s Perspective on the New School Year

Kirsten Bilderaya

Kirsten Bilderaya is an early childhood special education (ECSE) specialist. She works as an itinerant ECSE specialist for Adams 12 school district in Colorado at Tarver elementary school. She specializes in autism and works with two Learning Experiences—Alternative Programming for Preschoolers and Parents, for young children with Autism (LEAP) certified classrooms. In addition to working with children and teachers, she has taught parent classes for families with young children with autism, and supervises ECSE graduate students from University of Denver, and University of Colorado Denver.


ED: How did you begin your career in early childhood?

I began as a classified Early Childhood Education (ECE) Group Leader in an inclusive ECE classroom. Students in the ECE program included those who had individualized education programs (IEP)s, or who had high developmental risk factors, such as adverse childhood experiences, poverty, family separation, or English as a second language. After the fall semester, I decided this was the career I wanted to pursue and started the Master’s program in Early Childhood Education at the University of Colorado Denver. When I completed the program, I became a licensed early childhood special educator.

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Voices From the Field: Interview with Mona Qafisheh

Power to the Early Childhood Education Profession

Mona Qafisheh

Mona serves as the director of grants and contracts with the Association for Supportive Child Care which provides early childhood coaching, assessment, and professional development to early childhood professionals, and education for family, friends, and neighbor caregivers and families. Mona’s role includes supporting the organization through the granting lifecycle from identification of potential funding through reporting. Mona also serves as the president-elect for the Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children.


ED: How did you begin your career in early childhood education?

My career in early childhood education began like many others’ have. When I was 19, I needed a job and the only place that would hire me was a child care center. I worked as a camp counselor for 9 and 10-year olds through high school and figured working with toddlers would be a piece of cake. Spoiler alert: working with toddlers isn’t a piece of cake! But it was the most rewarding job I’ve ever had and inspired my love for young children and began my now almost 20-year commitment to them and their families. Also, like many of my peers in early childhood I began my career with a few college credits and was barely able to make ends meet financially. Those early teaching years have made me an advocate for high quality infant and toddler care, livable wages, and accessible, affordable higher education for early childhood educators who are often non-traditional students.

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Voices From the Field: Interview with Alicia Brewer Curran

Alicia Brewer Curran

Alicia Brewer Curran works at the University of Missouri, where she is the director of operations for the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) Autism Program, and serves as a parent panelist on three expert hub teams. Additionally, she is the family faculty member for the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program, program manager and quality improvement lead for the Autism Learning Health Network (AHLN), and the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. ambassador for Missouri. 


ED: How did you begin your career in early childhood?

My interest in early childhood began after my son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Due to lack of knowledge, I didn’t realize how concerned I should be about the differences I observed in his development, and I didn’t recognize that these differences were the early symptoms of autism. That resulted in my son losing out on two years of early intervention services.

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“Voices from the Field” Interview with Katherine Hutchens

Katherine Hutchens

Leading High-Quality Early Childhood Programs

Katherine Hutchens is the director of early childhood services, Methodist Home for Children, Raleigh, NC. She oversees two childcare centers, Jordan Child and Family Enrichment Center and the brand-new Barbara H. Curtis Center. Katherine has a bachelor’s degree in history from Dickinson College and held a teaching license for secondary social studies. She holds a master’s degree in early childhood from Augusta College. She has enjoyed over 25 years of early childhood program administration in Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina.

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Katherine Hutchens thumbnail
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Director of Early Childhood Services, Methodist Home for Children, Raleigh, NC

“Voices from the Field” Interview with Donna Fishman

Donna Fishman

Donna Fishman, MPH, is the Director for the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health (NCCVEH) at Prevent Blindness. She facilitates and manages the Better Vision Together Community of Practice (in which the Minneapolis Public Schools participates) and manages the development of a family vision resource kit for Head Start and other early childhood education and care agencies to increase parent/caregiver education around children’s vision and eye health.

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Donna Fishman
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Director, National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness

“Voices from the Field” Interview with Tawara Goode

Promoting Cultural Competence to
Improve Early Childhood Education

Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C.

Tawara Goode is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She has been on the faculty of the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development (GUCCHD), for over 30 years and has served in many capacities. Professor Goode is currently the director of the National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) GUCCHD and the director of the Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. She has degrees in early childhood education and education and human development. Her work has consistently focused on national level efforts to advance and sustain cultural and linguistic competence.

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“Voices from the Field” Interview with Kristie Kauerz, Director of the National P-3 Center

Kristie Kauerz w MuppetKristie Kauerz is director of the National P-3 Center and associate clinical professor at University of Colorado Denver’s School of Education and Human Development. Kristie specializes in education reform efforts that address the continuum of learning from birth through 3rd grade, integrating birth-to-five system building, and K–12 reforms. Kristie’s expertise spans policy, research, and practice. An important aspect of her work is designing and delivering professional learning opportunities that strengthen the relationships and organizational strategies necessary to implement P-3 alignment efforts in districts, states, and communities. Kristie designed and directed the Washington P-3 Executive Leadership Certificate Program, a credit-bearing course of study that co-enrolled administrators from early learning and K–12. She has also led the National P-3 Institute since 2008. Kristie holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Colorado College, a master’s degree in international development from American University, and a doctorate in early childhood policy from Teachers College at Columbia University.

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Kristie Kauerz
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Director, National P-3 Center | Associate Clinical Professor, School of Education and Human Development, University of Colorado Denver

Public Charter School Founded to Provide Excellent Reading Instruction to All

Strong Foundations School logo

Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett and Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim Richey visited Strong Foundations Charter School during the 2018 Back-to-School Tour.

October is Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness Month.


Seven years ago, one of my former students came to visit me and see the school I helped to found, Strong Foundations Charter School, a public charter school formed to provide excellent reading instruction to all students.

My former student was home from college where he majored in music and also played in two successful bands nearby. As we walked through the halls, he saw the elementary students working, some of whom were in Orton-Gillingham class—a structured reading approach to help students learn to read. I remarked that if he had been in a school like this, he might not have had to struggle so much with reading when he was younger.

His reply was bittersweet to me. “If I had been to a school like this, I might have been able to be your friend sooner.”

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