Through the Exchange Leadership Initiative, Exchange has been making leadership more visible in the field of early care and education since 2014. Exchange Leaders provide vision and stability, imagination and caring, and through their actions, direction to our field for now and into the future.

With more than 475 Exchange Leaders, we see them everywhereas directors, owners, and administrators, in classrooms, family child care homes, schools, colleges, and universities and in all the programs and services that support children and families.

Exchange Leaders are well-grounded in their own work and use their strengths and skills to make a difference for children, families, and their communities. They have a thorough understanding of early care and education principles and practices, address diversity and equity, and are engaged in life-long learning.

It is a demanding task to provide excellent care for our youngest children and their families in these times. The need for leadership throughout our field continues to be high and our Exchange Leaders have stepped up to meet the challenge. Thank you to all our leaders and to all of us who follow. Together we work to sustain families and communities through our supportive services.

We asked applicants to share their passion for the field, and to tell us stories about their leadership journey.

 

ELI member, Jolene AndriaschkoJolene Andriaschko
Dearborn, Michigan, United States
Consultant, Strategic Education
Consulting Solutions, LLC

How have you used your leadership to make a difference for children and families beyond your program or position?

I have used my leadership by being a member of the Michigan Association for Early Childhood’s Advocacy Committee. I have met state level politicians and advocated for early childhood in the state of Michigan. Also, one of my passions is multilingual learners. I have created presentations from my research in which I advocate for multilingual learners and their families.

ELI member, Ronnie ArmstrongRonnie Armstrong
Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Executive director, For Children Inc.

What is your passion in the field of early care and education? Why?

I am passionate about the need for society and early childhood educators to understand the importance of our work. I am appalled that there are more requirements and regulations to cut someone’s hair than to work with children during the most pivotal times of their lives. I was directing my first center 30 years ago when “From Neurons to Neighborhoods” was published and we learned how important those first five years of life are for a child’s development and success in life. I can still see the picture of a child’s brain that was in a stimulating, nurturing environment versus a child’s brain that did not get the positive experiences. I panicked when I realized that we could do damage to children if early childhood education is not done correctly.

ELI member, Emily BarnesEmily Barnes
Olathe, Kansas, United States
Owner, Barnes Childcare

What is your personal “mantra” that is important to your leadership?”

“You are strong. You are valuable. You have always been essential.” At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the nation debated who qualified as an “essential worker.” There was this momentary debate about who actually needed to go to work and who did not.

Family child care providers are strong. We shoulder the needs of our families so they can continue to thrive. Family child care providers are valuable. Our work allowed other industries to continue to operate and our local economies to stay afloat. Family child care providers have always been essential. We never had to “step up to the plate” because we were already there. When our families needed us the most, we were there to care for them.

ELI member, Jennifer ChenJennifer Chen
Union, New Jersey, United States
Professor, Kean University

What is your passion in the field of early care and education? Why?

My passion in the field of early care and education is to teach and learn. To me, both teaching and learning are fundamental and integral to leadership which, in turn, is an evolving process that requires continuous learning and a strong commitment to engaging in reflective practice. As I strive to lead with wisdom through self-reflection and by example anchored in respect and positivity, I hope to inspire others to join forces in advancing the field of early care and education.

ELI member, Jennifer ChenJennifer Chen
Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
Program director, Society of Richmond Children’s Centres

Tell us about a “key moment” that influenced your leadership.

I was most influenced by a conference that I had attended where they spoke about vision and values. Once I realized the importance of articulating my own values as well as those of an organization, then the leadership work became clearer. Ever since then, I have been leading in a way that uses our values as a guidepost and aligns with who I want to be as a human being as well.

ELI member, Ursula CostinUrsula Costin
Washington, D.C. United States
Early learning specialist, Beauvoir School

What is your personal plan for your continued growth in leadership and in early care and education?

In the words of bell hooks, “Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust.” I continue to seek others who think about young children with love and value their lives. This outlook is/will be reflected in the physical, emotional, and learning environments I am engaged in. My words, ways, attitudes, and inspirations stress the strong core belief that all are welcome.

ELI member, Margo Ford CrosbyMargo Ford Crosby
Greensboro, North Carolina, United States
Director of pre-K / before and after schools, Alamance Burlington Schools

As a leader, it is important to access a “seat at the table.” At what “tables” have you claimed a seat? How did you achieve your seat? Who offered to help you?

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm

Opportunity and access always lacks priority for Black women such as myself. I have often times had to bring my folding chair by way of email, letter, or grassroots action to tables where early childhood and/or my Black voice was not a priority. I am truly grateful for those who say my name at tables where I am not invited. They have seen a Tweet, LinkedIn post, Youtube roundtable discussions, and/or heard me speak up in a meeting with passion on purpose and said “I know just who you need to speak to.” These people are leaders in the education field, guardians of previous students and families I have served, as well as community leaders. I desire to sit at the tables to enlighten those sitting around the table of those who are not represented at the table. I am still working to achieve my seat at many tables, and I am too classy to flip the table so until I get a seat, I will continue to bring my folding chair to those tables while I am building my own table.

ELI member, Cindy CurryCindy Curry
Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada
Owner/director, Children, Naturally Early Learning and Child Care

As a leader, how have you worked to build networks and to work collaboratively around key issues in early care and education?

I build networks by capitalizing on opportunities to meet peoplefrom my own community, to those far away. I create opportunities for others to join in and talk about the issues at hand. One initiative I have created for collaboration is an online monthly article club where anyone can join to discuss, share ideas, ask questions, and find support about issues they might be facing. There is a wealth of knowledge in this group, and we all support each other in our own personal journeys. I reach out to government politicians and invite them to meet with me about the issues facing child care. I try to make connections with the policymakers to share what quality looks like and why it is so important to the children we care for and the families we work hard to support.

ELI member, Monique DavisMonique Davis
Statesville, North Carolina, United States
Certified educational trainer, Trauma Responsive Early Childhood Settings

What is your vision for what needs to happen in early care and education? What needs to change to achieve the vision?

Educators (teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, related service providers) need colleagues and consultants who will provide immediate assistance in working with the children of today. There are countless anecdotes of qualified and loving people who are quitting the profession due to “behavior issues,” and many educators are overwhelmed with hopelessness. We must, as a whole, completely change the lens through which we view discipline and behavior management. Students’ ability to self-regulate will never come about through programs of rewards and consequences, but must be modeled and taught through attuned relationships and co-regulation in a place of sensed safety.

ELI member, Monique DawkinsMonique Dawkins
Owings Mills, Maryland, United States
Chief executive officer, Quality
Beginnings Coaching and Consulting Solutions, LLC

What is your personal “mantra” that is important to your leadership?

“I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.”
Maya Angelou

While there are many factors and experiences that have shaped my professional practice, it is the influence of those who are greatly impacted by the outcomes of the early care and education sector which inspire me to continue to serve as an advocate, resource, and stakeholder for the children, families, and professionals connected to this immeasurable field of advocacy and education. Championing equity in early care and education is not a small feat, therefore it is important to remember that I am one who not only represents herself, but also the voice of thousands before and after me.

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ELI member, Mercedes DebreckiMercedes Debrecki
Hewitt, New Jersey, United States
Technical assistance specialist,
Central Jersey Family Health Consortium / Grow NJ Kids

What is your personal “mantra” that is important to your leadership?

“Lead from the front. Don’t steer from the back.” These words remind me that leading is not managing. As a leader, I am helping to create more leaders. I do not dictate to others what to do or how to do it. To me it is very important that I pass this message along to the programs I support, as they are the leaders to their staff. As leaders, we have a responsibility to build our teams, guide them, and help them achieve their personal goals while we provide a strength-based approach to supporting them.

ELI member, Manobi DekaManobi Deka
Guwahati, Assam, India
Founder/director, Sparsh Group of Schools

How have you used your leadership to make a difference for children and families beyond your program or position?

Apart from running a chain of preschools, I have started a non-profit to provide free education to the children of a village in my state. I have been deeply involved in the policymaking of the department of education of the country. I have been part of the focus group for developing the National Curriculum Framework of the country since 2021. I am also the Territory Head of The Early Childhood Association of India for eight states of the Northeastern part of India.

ELI member, Rochelle de Los ReyesRochelle de Los Reyes
Morristown, New Jersey, United States
Senior technical assistance specialist, Central Jersey Family Health Consortium

What is your personal “mantra” that is important to your leadership?

My personal mantra is “lead with humility, speak with honesty, and behave with integrity.” By respecting these values, I may encourage others to take the lead, strengthen the people around me, and work for positive change.

ELI member, Jillian DelucaJillian Deluca
Scotch Plains, New Jersey, United States
Technical assistance specialist, Central Jersey Family Health Consortium

What is your passion in the field of early care and education? Why?

I have been in the early education field over 15 years and in this time I have always been fascinated by the behavior of children, how they each move through milestones in their own individual way, and how early relationships can alter how a child develops. My passion is to work with children, their families, and early childhood educators to make those early relationships positive, nurturing, and strong. It takes one person in a child’s life to change it for the better.

ELI member, Maria DiazMaria Diaz
Denver, Colorado, United States
Family engagement manager, Clayton Early Learning

As a leader, how have you worked to build networks and to work collaboratively around key issues in early care and education?

Part of my work as family engagement manager is to be sure that our child family educators help families in the transition to kindergarten; one of my achievements is to have the connection with the public schools of the district or/and with other districts, set up a school readiness fair for the families, with that our families are more familiar with the school enrollment process. Other goals that we have achieved are the connection with different programs, be it programs that offer help to families with children with disabilities or families with migratory situations.

ELI member, Raquel DiazRaquel Diaz
Miami, Florida, United States
Senior Technical Assistant Specialist, National Early Care and Education Workforce Center for Child Trends

What is your personal “mantra” that is important to your leadership?

I have an icebreaker activity I like to use when I am with a new group of people called Six Word Memoirs where the members of the group describe themselves using six words. My six words are “Feisty Latina; believer in collaborative wisdom.” I strongly believe in bringing diverse voices to the table and in entering spaces with curiosity where we learn from one another. We are stronger together. I am particularly very proud to be the first Latina president elected in FLAEYC’s 66-year history. My passion is our workforce. I believe each educator enters the field with a passion and a drive that we need to continue to let shine.

ELI member, Kelly DotsonKelly Dotson
San Francisco, California, United States
Senior site director, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, Rosenberg Early Childhood Center

What is your personal plan for your continued growth in leadership and in early care and education?

I have found over the course of my career that the longer you work in direct care, the less other positions are open to you. Even within our field there is bias that teachers/directors do not have the skill set to move into other roles working with grant-agencies, resource and referrals and government agencies just to name a few. There was a period of my life that I applied for every other job available, ECE funder, family support, program directors, etc. What I found was that my skill set in managing teachers, families, and children daily was not recognized as being a manager. I saw my abilities questioned to run a large department even though I oversee three large early childhood programs. I was told that even though I have worked in the field I did not have enough experience to be the director of a local mentor teacher program. Quite often I found these roles going to folks who had not been in a school for a very long time, if ever. So, I reconnected to my joy in running programs and have been happy ever since using my giant tool kit in leading programming, inspiring teachers, educating parents, and providing a high-quality space for children to learn. I have been seeking out new roles where I can take on leadership positions locally and nationally, I am interested in opportunities to teach and train outside of a college or university.

ELI member, Anjali DubeyAnjali Dubey
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Executive director, Isabella Walton Childcare Centre

What is your personal “mantra” that is important to your leadership?

The personal mantra that I use and teach to my students is that everybody is a leader. For an organization to be effective all employees should be given the opportunity to grow and develop. As aptly put by Barbara Coloroso “The beauty of empowering others is that your own power is not diminished in the process”.

ELI member, Temisha ElliottTemisha Elliott
Aurora, Colorado, United States
Manager of education, Clayton Early Learning

When did you realize that you were a leader? How did you embrace the pride and the willingness to self-identify as a leader?

I have always been told that I have leadership qualities and I have a keen knack for guiding and supporting others in their professional growth. I embrace being a leader by being open and willing to support others with their growth process.

ELI member, Kelly Fenderson-GonzalesKelly Fenderson-Gonzales
Glendale, Arizona, United States
Manager, leader orientation and
development, Bright Horizons

As a leader, how have you worked to build networks and to work collaboratively around key issues in early care and education?

Relationships. As a teacher, relationships with children and families are crucial. As a center or program leader, relationships with staff, children and families are crucial. As a leader in the ECE field, relationships matter. Relationships with colleagues, not just within my team, but within other departments, teams, and functions across the organization. Relationships with folks in the field, staying connected to challenges, needs, and successes. Relationships with external agenciesa member of professional ECE organizations, relationships with local schools. Relationships are at the heart of my work. People, and their well-being, come first. When relationships are strong, we are able to really listen to what is happening and be more in tune to where the need is.

ELI member, Megan GesslerMegan Gessler
Yorkville, Illinois, United States
Program supervisor, The Morton
Arboretum, Little Trees

What is your passion in the field of early care and education? Why?

Children are born with an innate fascination for the natural world. My passion lies in following that curiosity and creating space for children to immerse in a natural learning environment where every child has the chance to develop a relationship of empathy and compassion with their ecosystem. When children are given a chance to love the Earth they are much more likely to care for and act as guardians of it into the future.

ELI member, Melony GibsonMelony Gibson
Fayetteville, Georgia, United States
Senior manager, leadership
development, Bright Horizons

How have you used your leadership to make a difference for children and families beyond your program or position?

I am a firm believer that leadership is not just a title or a position. Leadership is a mindset and a journey that comes with great responsibility. I have the privilege of leading leaders and helping to ingrain behaviors, change attitudes, and build competencies that help them support children, families, and teachers to deliver high quality, equitable, and inclusive programs every day. Additionally, I am an Equity fellow and support families, educators, and leaders through the National Black Child Development Institute through training and advocacy. Every child and every family deserves a quality program, safe learning environment, caring educators, and leaders who will light the way and advocate for a better future.

ELI member, Jacqueline GwinJacqueline Gwin
Houston, Texas, United States
School director, Bear Creek UMC School

When did you realize that you were a leader? How did you embrace the pride and the willingness to self-identify as a leader?

Being a leader is not about being a boss and giving orders, but about ensuring that the people around you are taken care of. I think that I have always had a heart to help people, and my spirit is calmed when I am using my time and talents to foster an environment where children and families’ needs are met. As I have gained education and experience, nurtured relationships with other leaders around me, and began to work hard to make changes I knew should be fought for, I have found a voice that I did not know I could ever have when I started this journey.

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ELI member, Choquette HamiltonChoquette Hamilton
Round Rock, Texas, United States
Founder and CEO, The RISE Center
for Liberation in Early Childhood
Education

As a leader, how have you worked to build networks and to work collaboratively around key issues in early care and education?

The work I do each day requires strong networks and collaboration. Specifically, we look for partnerships to help teach educators about anti-racism and liberation in early childhood education. Our most recent collaboration is working with the United Way Success by Six Coalition in Central Texas. We are partnering with the Coalition to offer our 8-week Anti-racist early care and education Teacher and Administrator Learning Series to members of the Coalition free of charge. In return, the participants will help us improve our professional development for future teachers and administrators. It is a real win-win partnership.

ELI member, Helene HarteHelene Harte
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Professor of education, University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash
College

Tell us a story about a person (or group) that made a key difference for you in your decision to be a leader.

A person who made a key difference in my decision to be a leader was the center director who first promoted me to lead teacher. She saw things in me that I did not see in myself. She encouraged me to obtain my master’s degree and provided opportunities to begin teaching others. It was that act that stays with me today as I make an effort to do that for other people, to hold a mirror up to them and show them their strengths and their leadership.

ELI member, Orinthia HarrisOrinthia Harris
Laurel, Maryland, United States
Executive director, STEMearly

Tell us a story about a child; a teacher or staff member; or a family that had a major influence on you.

“Ms. Toni, I don’t like Black teachers.” The little 4-year-old white Head Start student wanted to make this very clear to my mother on the first day of school. My mother’s response, “that is okay; by the end of the year, you will love Black teachers.” The little girl rolled her eyes and proceeded to be as defiant as she could for the remainder of the year. Yet, no matter how obstinate she tried to be, little by little she was warming up to my mother and becoming an active and willing participant in the classroom. She soon wanted to sit next to Ms. Toni during circle time and was constantly volunteering to be one of the classroom helpers. On the last day of school when all the parents gathered to watch their children showcase what they had learned, this little girl gave my mom the biggest hug and said, “wait here, I want to tell you something.” She ran to get her parents, and as they stood there, she said “mom and dad, I have to say something to Ms. Toni but I want you to hear.” She then, with a loud voice shouted,

“I LOVE BLACK TEACHERS!!!” At this, the faces of her parents became flush
from embarrassment, and they watched their little girl give Ms. Toni the biggest hug.

One teacher, my mother, equipped with the power of love began to dismantle racism in her early childhood classroom. The power of one teacher is immeasurable!

ELI member, Janet HumphreysJanet Humphreys
Larkspur, Colorado, United States
Co-founder, Dynamic Coaching
Systems, LLC

What is your vision for what needs to happen in early care and education? What needs to change to achieve the vision?

Our vision is that each early childhood program maximizes the talents, skills, and expertise of their staff, and in turn, maximizes the potential of young children and families. When doing this, each and every staff person is recognized, valued, and seen as critical to the program’s functioning and success. Each and every staff person feels they belong and are supported to meet the needs of the children and families entrusted to them as best as possible. Staff work as a team to uplift and support one another using a coaching mindset.

ELI member, Satomi Izumi-TaylorSatomi Izumi-Taylor
Lakeland, Tennessee, United States
Professor emeritus,
University of Memphis

As a leader, how have you worked to build networks and to work collaboratively around key issues in early care and education?

As a leader, I have worked with children, educators, families, and administrators in Memphis, Japan, China, and Taiwan, providing them with the importance of maintaining the most current information and knowledge regarding early childhood education and care. To do so, I have been studying and presenting mindfulness and constructivist approaches to many pre- and in-service teachers and family members. As an educator and researcher, I believe in the power of learning and development of all learners.

ELI member, Jena Ponti JauchiusJena Ponti Jauchius
Otis Orchards, Washington, United States
Owner/landscape architect, N is for Nature Play, LLC

What is your personal “mantra” that is important to your leadership?

There is a quote by Alexander den Heijer that captures my work philosophy: “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” Children, like flowers, are already perfect, in whatever human expression they embody. It is our job to make sure they have what they need, environment included, so that they thrive in life.

ELI member, Natalie JacksonNatalie Jackson
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Program director, McNeilly Center for Children

How have you used your leadership to make a difference for children and families beyond your program or position?

This profession and the needs of the families we serve are ever changing. As a leader in this field, you have to look at things from a whole family approach. If you empower the whole family the stronger the foundation. In my role I have used my own experiences to show families how to be advocates for their children. In my time as a leader, I go out in the community to advocate for better pay for early educators and talk about the important work that my educators do. I want to continue to increase my knowledge and continue to be a voice for those who don’t have the courage to speak up.

ELI member, Veidre JacksonVeidre Jackson
Douglassville, Pennsylvania, United States
CEO, Living Strong Consulting, LLC

How have you used your leadership to make a difference for children and families beyond your program or position?

I live by the John Maxwell definition of leadership, “Leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less.” My passion as a leader drives me to consult and coach other leaders in understanding the importance of creating environments that foster belonging through tools that allow frontline staff to feel safe, valued, and heard in order to serve children from a place of strength instead of deficit.

ELI member, Donna KirkwoodDonna Kirkwood
Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
Project coordinator, Arkansas State University

What is your personal “mantra” that is important to your leadership?

How does this relate to the mission? When conflict arises, sometimes it is hard to determine where to go and what to do. If we look back on our mission, the answer is often right there.


ELI member, Maggie LopezMaggie Lopez
Old Bridge, New Jersey, United States
Network director, UNECE/UFT

Tell us a story about yourself that makes you especially proud.

I always share with my staff that working with children is an art and a science. Art defines that ability, that passion we have when working with children. We must love working with them and not just report to work as a job but as a career. Science is learned, and the techniques and skills will be developed the more we work and learn about how children learn themselves.

ELI member, Ruby MartinRuby Martin
York, Pennsylvania, United States
Faculty/instructor, HACC Central Pennsynvania’s Community College/Early Childhood Education Training Academy

What is your vision for what needs to happen in early care and education? What needs to change to achieve the vision?

As a leader in early childhood education, I would LOVE to see a value placed on young children birth to age 5, the children who are soaking in so much around them and who are worthy of high-quality early learning experiences, no matter where they are. That value will have to come through in our country’s commitment to support the programs and families serving these young children, from a monetary standpoint and by providing resources needed to strengthen the profession.

ELI member, Kristin McGinnisKristin McGinnis
Clayton, Delaware, United States
Owner/lead teacher, Daylilly Academy

As a leader, it is important to access a “seat at the table.” At what “tables” have you claimed a seat? How did you achieve your seat? Who offered to help you?

Reluctantly at first, the special needs community. I was drawn to this community as a little girl. When my last child was born with Down Syndrome, it became the air I breathed. I was determined to break glass ceilings not only for my son but for all of those who have been marginalized. Surprisingly everyone, first my husband, then my family, my friends, my church then area programs. Very few people’s lives have not been touched in some degree by disability. I have become the voice for the voiceless.

ELi member, Tianna MorrisTianna Morris
Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
Program director, Society of Richmond’s Children’s Centres

What is your passion in the field of early care and education? Why?

My passion in the field of ECE is supporting children, families, and fellow educators through an emergent curriculum approach. I believe nurturing children’s curiosity and coming alongside them as they dive deep into their interests aligns not only with my values as an educator but with who I am as a person.

ELI member, Teramena OliverTeramena Oliver
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Childcare business coach, Porter Leath NEXT Memphis

What is your passion in the field of early care and education? Why?

My passion in the field of early care and education is improving the kindergarten readiness skills of students in underserved communities. Students from underserved communities benefit from access to high-quality early childhood education programs. A high-quality early childhood education can improve a child’s academic, social, and financial trajectory for a lifetime.

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ELI member, Kathy PomerKathy Pomer
Bryans Road, Maryland, United States
Co-founder/educational consultant, GatherRound Consulting

What is your vision for what needs to happen in early care and education? What needs to change to achieve the vision?

We need to create entire communities with systems and practices that align with the values we all have. If antiquated models and supports no longer work, we need to lean into being more creative, collaborative, critically thinking together and communicating with each other and all in ways that leave no one out of the conversation. It is actually easier in early childhood
because

children are competent and capable and if we remove barriers around them to help them thrive and support those adults doing this important work, we will be well on our way. We need to create opportunities to practice together, build trust and shared languages, ask questions more than share answers and believe truly in the dignity and potential of one another.

ELI member, Cammy PurperCammy Purper
Yucaipa, California, United States
Professor, California Baptist University

When did you realize that you were a leader? How did you embrace the pride and the willingness to self-identify as a leader?

It took me a long time to claim my identity as a leader. I was always passionate about serving others; for many years I did not think of myself as a leader, but rather as a collaborator and supporter. Through time, experience, and education, I have come to embrace my role as a leader and acknowledge the powerful impact I can make in this capacity. Acknowledging the power of our own leadership abilities is an important aspect of making a difference to children and families.

ELI member, Vonetta RhodesVonetta Rhodes
Buffalo, New York, United States
Co-founder/leadership representative, Western New York Child Care Action Team

How have you used your leadership to make a difference for children and families beyond your program or position?

I needed to live my love for early care education without limits. There was so much separation, racism, sexism, capitalism, and silo-ism imperializing our field that children, families, and providers were suffering. I concluded that the only thing everyone seems to agree on is that positive and productive action must happen now! I re-read “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire and found myself within it. According to Freire, “Becoming aware of the conditions of one’s oppression conscientizes oppressed peoples and, in turn, catalyzes transformative actions. This may lead to people altering oppressive structural conditions.” As a result, in November 2019, along with Ruth Clery and Sofia Mado, I co-founded the Western New York Child Care Action Team. Our organization is a team of unbossed, and unbought volunteer leaders and advocates who take action to empower, elevate, educate, and unite the child care community across all modalities and professions.

ELI member, Joshua RifkinJoshua Rifkin
Denver, Colorado, United States
Nature and technology specialist, Early Learning School-Denver JCC

Tell us about a “key moment” that influenced your leadership.

I remember a moment half a decade ago when I addressed my colleagues in a staff meeting about our responsibility to live in an organization that practiced sustainable solutions for the planet. I remember that moment because as I spoke, I felt grounded in something bigger than myself; I heard myself differently, and so did my colleagues. That day I learned that leadership must be fueled by aligning our words and actions with our deepest-felt values.

ELI member, Marina RodriguezMarina Rodriguez
West Haven, Connecticut, United States
Director/mentor coach, All Our Kin

What is your passion in the field of early care and education? Why?

My passion in early childhood comes from having been a teen mom and at the time not knowing how important a healthy attachment and boding was for my son’s brain growth. I made mistakes as a young mom that I tried to correct as soon as I learned more about child development. As a result of my mistakes as a young mom living in poverty and managing constant adversities, I have had to spend the rest of my adult years repairing my relationship with my son. Today our relationship is very healthy. The health of our relationship has come as a result of me developing accountability for my actions, clarity in communication, space for my son to process and listening attentively to him. When my son was in Head Start his teacher invited me to stay in the classroom to volunteer. The first time she invited me I declined. One day she invited me again, I was feeling down and out and really did not have much to do and decided to stay. There began my journey and growth in early childhood and child development.

ELI member, Alexandra SaharigAlexandra Saharig
Morristown, New Jersey, United States
Technical assistance specialist, Central Jersey Family Health Consortium

What is your passion in the field of early care and education? Why?

My passion in this field is to educate others on the importance of quality education for all, no matter your cultural background or socio-economic status. Every child in this nation deserves to learn in a safe and nurturing environment.

ELI member, Ashley ShaferAshley Shafer
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Graduate student researcher, Office of Child Development, University of Pittsburgh

What is your personal “mantra” that is important to your leadership?

My personal mantra is “Fluctuat nec mergitur” which is a Latin motto and translates to “[she] is rocked [by the waves] but does not sink”. At my core, I identify as a leader. I view leadership as an honor, a way to provide support to others through the act of service. I am motivated by those who came before me, especially the trailblazing women who fought and persisted in the face of constant patriarchy and at times violence. Through leadership and service, I am able to contribute and give back, in honor of those trailblazers who came before me, and in service to those still fighting to be heard. I believe that in leadership and service you must be authentic, humble, willing to learn and grow from and with othersin community. Part of my leadership and service philosophy is to continuously be in reflective community with those I am serving.

ELI member, Veronika VicqueneauVeronika Vicqueneau
Irvine, California, United States
Curriculum coordinator/lead teacher, UCI Child Care Services

What is your personal “mantra” that is important to your leadership?

“One problem at least two solutions.” I look at challenges in a non-judgmental way and calmly start generating solutions. It has helped me a lot with making choices in my personal life, dealing with critical issues in my professional life and occasionally with difficult problems. Modeling this mantra helps my colleagues and students as well. They too have adopted this mantra that helps them to cope and solve problems and happenstances in a peaceful manner.

ELI member, Lindsay WebbLindsay Webb
Cocagne, New Brunswick, Canada
Learning specialist,
Government of New Brunswick

What is your personal “mantra” that is important to your leadership?

“It takes a whole lotta slow to grow.” This mantra came from my mentor. I say it to myself at least once a day! Leadership is a way of being, a service, a skill set, and so much more. We have to invest in our own growth, learn hard lessons over and over, be vulnerable and know our limitations. Leadership is shaped by our own stories and experiences. We need to live them to learn from them, and this takes time. We need time to reflect on the living and the doing so that we can become intentional and thoughtful leaders.

ELI member, Anissa WilliamsAnissa Williams
Hampton, Georgia, United States
Family education and intervention specialist, Children Anointed, LLC

As a leader, how have you worked to build networks and to work collaboratively around key issues in early care and education?

“Asking,” though simple, I use it to build networks and collaborate with diverse representatives in the ECE field. When I attend conferences, trainings and speak at events, I ask questions to those present in that space. It allows me to gain different perspectives on key and sometimes difficult issues impacting early education. This applies to online educational venues as well.

Pam Boulton, Ed.D., is coordinator for the Exchange Leadership Initiative for Exchange magazine and is an instructor for the Center for Early Childhood Professional Development and Leadership in the University Wisconsin-Whitewater Department of Continuing Education. She focuses on leadership development in the early childhood field.

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American Association of Pediatrics