White House honors Educare Tulsa program officer

Vicki Wolfe, chief program officer at Educare Tulsa, was honored by the White House on May 3 at a ceremony recognizing great teachers from across the country. Wolfe describes her experience and what receiving the “White House Great Educator Award” means to her.

How did you feel when you found out you were going to the White House?
Nervous, yet honored.

What did you enjoy most about the event itself?
The opportunity to be in the same room with the President and listen to his remarks about the need for better support and recognition for teachers.

Did you meet other educators from early learning programs?
Yes, only two other early childhood education nominees were selected.

What was it like to have conversations with other early childhood educators from across the country?
It was interesting. They work with Early Head Start and Head Start in Michigan and South Dakota—one was a teacher and the other was the education coordinator. I found it interesting that both of them also had experience in public school and had chosen to work in a more comprehensive services model like Head Start. [We discussed] the public school approach versus Head Start’s approach, the challenges of finding qualified staff and the challenges yet rewards of being a teacher in America.

You also attended a National Head Start Association event on the same day. What was the purpose of that event?
The National Head Start Association took us out to lunch to honor us for being the first group from Head Start programs to have ever been included in this annual White House event.

Why do you think it’s important to recognize the great work of teachers, especially in early childhood?
Teachers are helping to shape the future. They don’t choose this field to become rich or famous. It is about making a difference in the life of a child, knowing that the child will grow up to make a difference in someone else’s life as well. Having the opportunity to help create healthy, confident, innovative, open minded, collaborative and critical thinkers for the future is vitally important, yet undervalued in America. Teachers have direct influence on students from all other professions. We, early childhood education professionals partnering with parents, help create a solid foundation—comparable to building a house or a skyscraper—everything else rests upon what we put in place.