"To me, being a member of NAEYC is second nature. I'm an early childhood teacher, and with that, undeniably, goes membership in the nation's most influential early childhood association. In fact, I've not taught a day in my life without the guidance and support of a NAEYC membership."
- Brian Kingrey, Kindergarten teacher in Knoxville, Iowa. NAEYC member since 2005.
Tell us about your work with young children:
For the past nine years I've taught kindergarten in a rural town in southeast Iowa. My time spent working with five- and six-year olds has been wonderful. Students at that age are interested in a great many things and are inquisitive; they seek out information. Knowing this, I plan an environment that welcomes all students, as well as focuses on developmentally appropriate practices. While many kindergartens in today's schools have done away with the housekeeping area, the music and movement, and sensory/discovery, I make an effort to provide for those experiences. After all, kindergarten should be more like preschool than first grade. I work diligently to ensure this practice is a mainstay in my classroom and school district.
Why did you become a member?
My membership in NAEYC was not by happenstance. A wonderful professor and preschool director mentored me during my college years. She strongly suggested to all her students in her early childhood methods course to attend the Iowa AEYC state conference. It was at that time in 2004 that I became aware of and involved in the Iowa AEYC and thereby NAEYC.
I knew for a long time that I wanted to be a teacher of young children. Throughout my K-12 and postsecondary years I focused my attention on quality teachers and professors; I wanted to know what made them "good." I was fortunate to have several teachers and professors who took the time to mentor me and guide me in the way of best practices for early learners. I owe a great deal to that college professor and director who helped light my path - we still see one another and "talk shop" as much as two busy professionals can.
How has NAEYC impacted your career and influenced your work with young children?
To me, being a member of NAEYC is second nature. I'm an early childhood teacher, and with that, undeniably, goes membership in the nation's most influential early childhood association. In fact, I've not taught a day in my life without the guidance and support of a NAEYC membership.
While I enjoy the benefits of reduced rates at conferences and workshops, as well as reduced prices on NAEYC books, etc., I truly enjoy the networking among early childhood professionals and researchers in the field that membership offers. My time as a member has provided me a multitude of opportunities to interact with professionals in the field, including those authors of whom I studied while in postsecondary programs. To me, that is a wonderful experience.
Being a member of NAEYC has allowed me to grow as a professional. While my time in the field teaching is less than a decade, I have been privileged to serve on behalf of young children and their providers at the local, state, and Midwest levels. I'm honored to serve on Iowa AEYC's governing board as Week of the Young Child Chair, and formerly as Iowa's State Representative to the Midwest AEYC governing board wherein I served as Vice President from 2010-2014.
Having served in these capacities at the local, state, and Midwest levels has allowed me to deepen my knowledge base in terms of services provided to young children and their families, to increase my awareness of advocacy efforts, and to broaden my scope of the early childhood field as a whole. As a result, I return to my classroom each school year with a renewed spirit that what I do really matters, especially for those five- and six-year olds who may be experiencing a group setting (school) for the first time. My work is essential, just as is my membership in NAEYC.
What is your favorite NAEYC member benefit?
Young Children Journal & NEXT for Young Children
What is your dream for the future of early-childhood education?
As a public school teacher, my dream is based on the simple notion that schools be ready for kids, and not the focus of kids being ready for school. While school readiness skills are essential for successful transition, the main focus should be that schools are ready to receive young children in a manner in which supports the child as a whole. I speak often, to anyone who will listen, really, that early childhood learning is not just reserved for children ages birth to five. Rather, it extends through third grade, or age 8. I've seen far too many teachers of K-3 who don't feel as though they teach early childhood. This notion needs to subside and be replaced with the national focus that children, ages birth to 8, learn and develop in different ways than those students who are older. As a result, teachers of K-3 DO teach early childhood education and therefore should have training in the ways children learn and grow.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Working with students in small groups or one-on-one. In these settings I am able to see my work on a personal level. In addition, I'm able to meet the needs of individual students. In so doing, I can scaffold their learning in ways that allow them to learn and grow, not just in academics, but in a whole child manner.
Describe your perfect day.
My perfect day is somewhere around October when the school year is in full swing, the kids have transitioned nicely to kindergarten, and the classroom is abuzz with the sounds of active learning. I enjoy my time teaching early literacy skills because there's always an area that needs a little extra support. Whether I'm teaching letter recognition, letter-sound relationships, sight words, or fluency, I know the next level of skill acquisition can be attained through scaffolded instruction that is individualized and based on the student's needs. To me, this type of day is ideal.
If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
If I could meet Friedrich Froebel, the founder of kindergarten, or "child's garden," I would ask him about the ways in which kindergarten came to be. I think it would be interesting to hear his comparisons of the first kindergartens to today's classrooms and practices. Further, I would discuss with him his thoughts on child development, as well as how he see the first eight years of a child's life in terms of growth and development. Having time to "talk shop" with a fellow kindergarten teacher would be extremely enjoyable.
I really enjoy reading the book, Tops and Bottoms, by Janet Stevens, to my students each spring. It teaches the lesson that being lazy doesn't pay. In addition, it explains the concept of helping yourself "up" to have a better life. It's a fun read because Rabbit tricks Bear throughout the story planting crops that they'll share. Rabbit asks Bear if he wants the "tops" or the "bottoms" from each crop. Depending on what Bear says, Rabbit plants the opposite type of crop so Bear ends up getting the roots or the leafy tops. It's highly engaging and the kids really enjoy seeing the trickery that takes place.