Early childhood leaders hold statewide meeting at PBSC
Early childhood leaders from around Florida convened at Palm Beach State College recently to learn best practices and to discuss key issues facing the industry.
Twenty-five early childhood and teacher education professors and administrators from 10 Florida College System institutions attended the Florida Community College Early Childhood Educators’ Network (FCCECEN) fall meeting hosted on the Lake Worth campus by PBSC’s Early Childhood and K-12 Programs. The four-day meeting, one of two the group holds each year, was for members to discuss recent legislation effecting early childhood programs and best practices for implementing the changes to ensure quality education for teachers.
For example, they discussed House Bill 419: Early Learning and Early Grade Success, which took effect last year. It requires additional emergent literacy courses for VPK (voluntary prekindergarten) and prekindergarten, in addition to taking an early literacy course every five years.
With child care centers and facilities facing teacher shortages like those of some K-12 school districts in Florida and throughout the nation, the group aims to determine how to boost the pipeline of workers and better train teachers for the field, among other things.
“We are all trying to stay on the same playing field and ensure we prepare all students. We are united so that we can professionalize the field from what we can do in our positions,’’ said Susy Martinez-White, PBSC’s director of Early Childhood and K-12 Education Programs. “This is one of the reasons why we have our fall meetings around the state at different colleges and the spring meeting is always in Tallahassee after the legislative session.”
Among the challenges network members discussed during the meeting held Sept. 20-23 are what they have dubbed “the pandemic plunge” with children entering child care centers and facilities unprepared to socialize with others after being isolated at home; long hours and no sick days for teachers because they must keep the mandated student-teacher ratios in the classrooms; declining mental health; low pay, and lack of resources.
“We discussed a lot about how we can address these issues in our training programs and coursework because it’s the practicality of the field and how we approach and handle situations,’’ Martinez-White said. “We talked about different things that can be done in the classroom to help our students when they get into their own situations and how to be resourceful. If they work in a school that does not have a lot of resources, we can teach them how to reach out to the community and make the most of what they do have and how to be more creative. It’s not that we’re going to solve all the world’s problems, but how we approach it in our coursework and trainings so they are prepared when they go into the field.”
In addition to discussing best practices and legislative matters, a customary practice is for the host institution to highlight its programs. PBSC’s Early Childhood and K-12 Education staff highlighted the College’s Institute of Excellence in Early Care and Educations’ new Early Childhood Micro Credentialing program. In addition, the group held one day’s meetings at the Opportunity Early Childhood Learning Center in West Palm Beach to give attendees a closeup look at how the College’s trainings and programs have positively impacted teachers in the community and ultimately the care and education of children in Palm Beach County.
“We were very excited to host this meeting as it was our first in-person meeting since the pandemic,’’ Martinez-White said, noting that the College provides the state-mandated training required to work in licensed child care facilities, afterschool programs and summer camps in Palm Beach County.
In attendance were representatives from Miami Dade College, Pensacola State College, Florida State College of Jacksonville, Florida Southwestern State College, Tallahassee Community College, State College of Florida, Santa Fe College, State College of Florida Sarasota-Manatee and North Florida State College.
The FCCECEN will meet next spring in Tallahassee shortly after the legislative session to receive updates and important information from the Department of Education, Department of Children and Families, Children’s Forum and other agencies that impact the respective College programs.
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