Professional Development

Rachel Baraks

Early Childhood Literacy Aide

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Rachel’s journey into the early childhood field began when a visitor came to one of her classes at Western Illinois University to talk about an early childhood literacy program through the AmeriCorps. At the time, she didn’t have any formal training or experience in teaching children, but after a couple years of working closely with classroom teachers through the AmeriCorps program, she has learned what it takes to be a successful teacher.

Rachel has a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts with an emphasis in Psychology and English, and she’s currently pursuing a Master’s degree in mental health counseling. Her experience in the AmeriCorps program taught her many things – including how rewarding a job in the early childhood field can be!


Video Interview


Interview Q&A

What do you think helps people succeed in early childhood?

You really have to be very patient with children. While they do have higher energy levels, sometimes they move a little slower to do certain things, and you have to work with that and be patient and understanding. Children are going to be hungry and they’re going to be tired and may not be able to verbally explain that to you very well, so you have to be understanding. Also, I’m a really positive person, and children are intuitive and feed off of that positivity, so I think coming in in the morning with a positive attitude really helps set the tone for the whole day.


How do you stay up-to-date with research and information in early childhood education?

I think the biggest way that I’ve learned while working in early childhood education is by asking questions of the veteran staff and teachers that I work with. They are always willing to share advice. That’s honestly how I’ve learned the most.


What do you want the community to know about the importance of the early childhood profession?

Early childhood education is absolutely vital. You aren’t just playing with the kids, they’re learning. You’re setting them up with the skills they need to be successful adults. That foundation is absolutely the key to helping children succeed.


Why should people consider this field as a profession?

It’s really rewarding. I know people say that, but it really is! It’s really wonderful to watch a child grow and learn in a school environment, and I think that’s what’s so special—especially when they’re really young because they learn and grow so fast within those two to three years when they’re in a classroom. It’s really special to watch that.

If you were going to encourage someone to choose this field, what would you say?
It’s really rewarding and fun! What other job do you get to play with toys, sing songs, dance, and go on field trips? It makes me feel like a kid again, and it’s really fun!


What has been the biggest surprise about working in your position?

I guess the biggest surprise is that some of the things that I’ve learned, you can use with adults. The idea of being patient and understanding – I didn’t expect those skills to transfer out. And I didn’t expect to grow as much as I did. I thought I’d come in, we’d play and it’d be fun, but you really do grow as a person – and that surprised me.