Professional Development

Natalie Doyle

Early Childhood Program Coordinator

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Inspired by her grandmother who was a teacher and raised 10 children, Natalie Doyle knew she wanted to be in education. With so many possibilities in the teaching field, however, she wasn't sure in which direction to head. A professor at Loras College urged her to combine early education and special education, an approach not as prevalent as it is today. In 2004 she received her Bachelor Degree in Unified Early Childhood Education and taught first grade. She then went on to earn her Master's Degree in Education from Western Illinois University.

Currently Natalie works as the Early Childhood Program Coordinator for the Rock Island County Regional Office of Education, assisting and enhancing services in 36 classrooms located in 13 early care and education centers in Rock Island County.

 

Video Interview

 

Interview Q&A

What does your role as coordinator at the Rock Island County Regional Office of Education entail and why is it so important?

I oversee the early childhood services, which are funded by the Illinois State Board of Education Early Childhood Block Grant. We have programs in 36 classrooms across our region and employ 20 certified teachers who team with childcare providers to deliver curriculum in an optimal learning environment at each center. It's an excellent program because of the collaboration that exists between our agency and local early care and education centers. The staff works collectively to provide a balance of holistic experiences that encourage positive self-esteem and social skills. Our program also recognizes the importance of family in a child's overall development so family involvement is a critical piece. It's crucial for children to have access to quality care during the early years as these experiences lay the foundation for future growth and development.

 

Why is quality early education so important in a child's future?

Research continues to show that early learning experiences affect brain development. These experiences can either hinder or promote cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. Many parents, like myself, work full-time and it's absolutely essential for parents/guardians and their children to have exposure to quality childcare. As a result of being in this field, I'm much more aware of what those experiences should be for young children. Although I can't be with my own son as much as I'd like, I know he's getting what he needs because of the high quality care he receives from his early care and education provider.

 

What traits/skills do you think are important
for someone teaching young children?

If you want to teach young children, an important trait would be flexibility. Lesson plans are imperative to effective classroom management and engagement, but there may be some occasions when you have to scrap plans for the day and try something different. I am someone who thrives on routine, but as a classroom teacher, administrator, and parent I have quickly learned to fully embrace the necessity of flexibility.

Communication is also at the top of the list because a teacher must have effective dialogue with parents and their team members. Creativity is also an excellent trait. Teachers should always be looking for ways to engage children.

Supporting children in their daily routines such as hand washing or wearing their coats can be challenging so the teacher who can make a game of it will have an easier timeā€”and the kids will be happier too!

 

You mentioned communication with parents. What's the best way to do that?

From my own experience, teachers need to develop strong rapport with parents. It can be damaging to the relationship with the parents/guardians if the initial interaction relates to a negative situation with their child. It is much more conducive and healthy to build a relationship with each child and family first. It is essential to find out what their priorities and goals are for their child. Don't let your priorities get in the way. The teachers should take the initiative to reach out to each family.

 

What are the biggest challenges early childhood education will face in the coming years?

There's a "pushdown" that we see in schools, early care and education programs across our nation. It's a shift in expectations for our children. Kindergarten educators are now teaching what was considered typical curriculum for first graders and so on. There is such an emphasis on academic performance that schools and programs are losing sight of some of the skills that children need in order to be successful and productive members of our society. Social skills such as self-regulation, an essential skill that many children today are struggling with, are taking a backseat to the rote academic activities that are often found on standardized tests. Another challenge I see is the continued low pay for early care and education personnel. I firmly believe in professionalizing the field, but there needs to be appropriate compensation in place if teachers are required to hold a certain degree.

 

Why should anyone consider this field as a profession?

No profession is perfect, but this is an incredibly rewarding field. Teaching can be very challenging, but to see how much of an impact you can have on children and their families is fulfilling. It is also important to note that there are a variety of jobs within the field outside of being a classroom teacher. When I graduated with my teaching degree, I never thought I would have an opportunity to work in early childhood in some other capacity. Now I still have the ability to work with classroom teachers, but I'm able to engage in the field in other ways that lead to professional growth and development. The possibilities are endless.