For the fifth year in a row, the Educare Network joined Comic Relief and other early childhood champions across the country in celebrating Red Nose Day and partnering to help ensure a future where all children can thrive.
Through Red Nose Day funding to all 25 Educare schools, we support innovation and infrastructure in classrooms and programs across the country – and that innovation is driven by our amazing educators! Every day, teachers and staff at Educare schools are making a difference for children and families within and beyond the classroom. Here’s how two of our Educare teachers are supporting children and families in pursuit of a bright future!
Saira Bernal Gonzalez
Preschool Teacher Assistant, Tulsa Educare
Saira has always wanted to be a teacher, starting from an early age when she would play “school” with her younger sisters, taking on the role of teacher to assign and complete homework. As a teenager she concurrently enrolled in a local community college for her final two years of high school, during which time she joined the Tulsa Educare team as an intern in the Infant-Toddler and Preschool classrooms.
“I absolutely fell in love with preschool,” she shares. “[The kids] are so funny and curious! I love the many, many questions they ask. One of my favorite activities to do [with them] is self-portraits; I have great conversations with the kids and it helps to create authentic connections with them. I love what I do, and I love my kiddos!”
Red Nose Day grant funding from Comic Relief helps Saira and the Tulsa Educare team make sure that their kiddos have every opportunity to grow and learn. This year, Tulsa Educare used that funding to create Study Tubs – boxes of supplemental materials to help enhance the school’s curriculum. Study Tubs not only help provide innovative experiences in the classroom for children, but also develop teachers’ capacity for STEAM best practices and provide additional resources to support learning for students and staff alike.
Together with supports like Study Tubs, on-the-job professional learning, and her plans to return to school in the fall and continue her education, Saira hopes to one day become a lead teacher.
“Saira is an excellent model of Tulsa Educare’s core values and demonstrates the epitome of a growth mindset,” says Tulsa Educare School Director Jennifer Ligon. “She has a bubbly and vibrant personality, is quick to step up and help her peers, is incredibly calm when helping children self-regulate, and has volunteered to co-lead professional development sessions with her co-teacher while also providing interpretation for our Spanish-speaking staff. [Her] peers value the teamwork, flexibility, and joy that she brings to the classroom each and every day.”
Head Start Preschool Teacher, Educare Kansas City
Kenesha has a long history in the early childhood education field, both personally and professionally. As a high school student, she worked part-time at an in-home daycare and welcomed her first son, who inspired her to fulfil her passion to become an educator. At 18, she began working at a military base Child Development Center while also attending school full-time and navigating being a new mom, ultimately receiving a bachelor’s degree in child development and welcoming her second child.
“Throughout both of my children’s lives, I have been a strong advocate for their educational needs,” she continues. “[And] as I learned through my own experiences, it continued to drive my passion as a teacher.”
After 12 years with the Child Development Center, Kenesha sought to become a more well-rounded teacher, learn a new curriculum, and serve children and families affected by systems that had historically underserved them. This desire brought her to Educare Kansas City.
“In this journey, I had to step back, slow down and look at [how] I could help children and families. I have a natural inclination to step in and quickly find a solution when someone has a problem – [but] I’ve learned this is not always helpful,” says Kenesha. “The families in our school are amazing, courageous, and capable. I’ve learned that often times children and families have the tools and skills they need, and I can best support them by giving them a safe space to be transparent without being judged.”
Providing that safe space takes many forms, not the least of which is helping prepare children for kindergarten and beyond. With Red Nose Day grant funds from Comic Relief, Kenesha and other Educare Kansas City teachers have been able to learn more about Conscious Discipline, a social-emotional curriculum that helps bolster children’s development.
“These funds have allowed me to learn more about Conscious Discipline, which has taught me an abundance of strategies to help teach my students how to regulate themselves, resolve conflicts through problem-solving, and manage their emotions,” Kenesha says. “We’ve also been able to purchase many materials to enhance STEAM learning. The children love to learn and explore through hands-on activities with these materials, [and] this has led them to gain observational, problem-solving, and engineering skills and to expand their expressive language. We’re so grateful we’ve gotten to incorporate these new things in the classroom!”
This hands-on work with social-emotional learning is just one example of how Kenesha is helping to make a difference for the children in her classroom.
“Kenesha is truly a special early childhood educator,” says Educare Kansas City School Director Kelli Roehr. “She is passionate about providing the best care and education for the children and families in her classroom, and is always looking to learn more about her field. [Her passion and drive] is infectious, and she is always encouraging her coworkers to try new things and learn new skills. She uses her knowledge and expertise paired with her own personal experiences to collaborate with parents and help them feel safe and at home in our school. She works tirelessly to put her innovative ideas into action, and is an inspiration and a joy to work with.”