Members of MnAEYC and MnSACA are the visible embodiment of our commitment to providing quality in early learning and afterschool care to the children and youth in Minnesota. It is through their desire and enthusiasm for their profession that the organization flourishes, so it is important to us to acknowledge and recognize their support and commitment.
Karen DeBoer, Region 8 Child Care Aware of Minnesota & Early Learning
Why did you become a NAEYC/MnAEYC member?
Every profession has its own history, terminology, and mission for its work. As an advocate for children in all early childhood settings, it is important for me to get information about the latest research, current trends, and ideas for projects and initiatives that could be replicated in our area. Becoming a NAEYC/MnAEYC member provides me access to concepts and viewpoints that increase my knowledge of young children’s development, as well as national thoughts and philosophies about the field of early childhood education. NAEYC is my connection to national and international data, views, and goals.
What does your NAEYC/MnAEYC membership mean to you? How has it impacted your career and influenced your work with young children?
As a staff person of a very small program in rural Minnesota, we do not have access to many local resources. We need to travel hours in order to participate in statewide initiatives and projects. NAEYC/MnAEYC helps me stay connected by providing access to current, well-researched information from national leaders in early childhood. My role here in Southwest Minnesota is to support and encourage early childhood educators – to take care of those who are caring for the children. I can use information I gain about latest research to inspire best practice in child care. I can be the voice of all children in all settings at community initiatives and events. NAEYC/MnAEYC membership helps me be a better-informed child care advocate.
What is your favorite NAEYC/MnAEYC member benefit?
Because I am an avid reader who is always seeking knowledge, I would have to say the Young Children magazine and access to national conferences and opportunities are my favorite NAEYC member benefits. I feel it is important to stay informed about latest trends and research. When I connect with our local early childhood educators, I share information to help them stay informed. Because we are so isolated, I feel we have a responsibility to take advantage of every opportunity to stay connected with state and national initiatives.
Young children are so inspiring. That’s why many of us are early childhood educators. Share one way a child has inspired you.
I was a volunteer providing child care at a military event. None of the volunteers had met any of the children before. One of the infants immediately bonded with one of the volunteers. Anytime this volunteer was out of the room, the infant would cry. As soon as the volunteer picked up the infant, the infant would stop crying. It was fascinating! It was a powerful demonstration of the impact one individual can have on a child. We, as early childhood educators, have an opportunity to make the difference in children’s lives. We need to take our role with young children seriously – it can and DOES make a difference.
What is your dream for the future of early childhood education?
My dream is for early childhood education to be recognized as a legitimate profession, with compensation equal to its importance. I want parents to have the freedom to choose the setting that is right for their child – and not base that decision on cost. I want something to make up the difference between what parents can pay and what programs can “afford” to charge. I want child care to offer a livable wage, not a supplemental income. Learning begins at birth – I dream of a time when as much investment is made available to children ages 0-3 as there is for children ages 4-5.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is being able to make a difference in the lives of the early childhood educators who are on the front-line working with children every day. I see my role as “caring for those who care for the children.” I am their biggest advocate, champion, and supporter. I truly feel I can impact the lives of children and their families by encouraging and reinforcing quality in their child’s caregiver. Child care can be very isolating. I love the relationships I have been able to develop and the support I am able to provide. I love being able to help when help is needed.
What three accomplishments, personal and/or professional, are you most proud of?
Personally, I am most proud of my children. The work of early childhood advocacy is not easy work. Working with child care providers means many, many nights and Saturdays away from my home and family. Through the support of our wonderful child care providers and programs throughout the years, I have two empathic, compassionate, hard-working young adults who are successful on their own. Our family would not be who we are without child care’s positive impact.
Professionally, I am most proud of the child care system we have in place in Southwest Minnesota, a system I have been a part of since 1989. There are almost 6,000 children being cared for in the nine counties of Southwest Minnesota – almost 500 early childhood settings! We have a strong mixed delivery system, with each type of care meeting a need or filling a role in that community. I am proud to be a part of a support system that provides resources, technical assistance, and encouragement to people who are making a difference in children’s lives every day.
What’s your favorite book and why?
One of my favorite fictional books is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. It is one of my favorite “go-to” books when I need a break from educational or non-fiction books and articles. As a resident of a rural community, I think I relate to the struggles Francie goes through and can appreciate her need to be resourceful. The book takes place in the early 1900’s. At times, it is reminder of how far we have come, at others, it is a reminder of how far we still have to go.