“NAEYC has continually connected me with other professionals in early childhood education. I was quite involved in both local and state chapters when I first became a member, and though I left the field briefly, I stayed connected to NAEYC so I could keep up with what was happening in early childhood education. NAEYC is my go to place to gather resources for teachers, review the latest developments, and explore who is doing what in early learning!”
Kimberlee Kiehl, Executive Director of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC) in Washington, DC. NAEYC member since 1982.
Tell us about your work with young children:
I'm currently the Executive Director of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC).
My job is a combination of running a school for young children and working across the museums of the Smithsonian. On any given day I might be in a classroom or on a museum visit with a classroom, meeting with a donor, working on the design of a new space for young children in one of the museums, writing a grant, or traveling to do one of our professional development programs with early childhood teachers or museum professionals across the country. It is a great job because there is so much variety day to day!
Why did you become an NAEYC member?
I think it is important to be connected to a professional organization. Being a member has helped me stay on top of the current events and issues being discussed across the field.
What does your NAEYC membership mean to you? How has it impacted your career and influenced your work with young children?
NAEYC has continually connected me with other professionals in early childhood education. I was quite involved in both local and state chapters when I first became a member, and though I left the field briefly, I stayed connected to NAEYC so I could keep up with what was happening in early childhood education. NAEYC is my go to place to gather resources for teachers, review the latest developments, and explore who is doing what in early learning!
What is your favorite NAEYC member benefit?
Young Children! I love that it combines practical advice with the latest research. I like that there is a focus for each issue. I can go back and pull an issue when we are discussing something at our own school, and find great resources to stimulate our discussions.
Young children are so inspiring. That’s why many of us are early childhood educators. Tell us how children inspire you.
It takes incredible courage to be a child—one of our mottos at SEEC is “We are not cute, we are brave!” Everything is new to a child and they have so little control over anything in their world but they go out there every single day and try something brand new with enthusiasm and wonder. At SEEC we take our children to the Smithsonian museums and other community sites on an almost daily basis—even the babies go out a few times a week. I love watching the children on these visits and hearing their comments as they carefully explore new worlds through paintings, artifacts, exhibitions and experiences.
To save these moments each one of our classrooms and every admin office has a jar where we collect what we call “Moments of Joy”---those little moments with children throughout the day that are sheer joy. One of the stories in my jar was walking from the Metro stop with one of our 4 year olds and his dad:
Charlie: Excuse me, I have something to say.
Me: What do you have to say, Charlie?
Charlie: I love school.
Me: I am so happy that you love school!
Charlie: No,no, no, no (waving his hands at me)…..I really LOVE school!
This is what “school” should be… a place where children LOVE to come and get to love learning! It made my whole day.
What’s an accomplishment, personal and/or professional you are most proud of?
Providing support for the teachers in my school is the part of my job that I think is the most important piece. I work for them, they don’t work for me. I try to give them the space to test their own ideas and to try new things. I want them to know that I respect them as professionals and that I am here to make their lives easier. I want to hear their voices in all of our decisions and I want them to lead the discussions about many of the issues we face.
I’m also proud of raising my own children to be amazing and caring adults. My son is a wonderful dad of a 16 month old daughter. My daughter has been a nanny for over 8 years and is one of the best people I have ever seen with young children. They are both extraordinary adults and I am so proud to be their mom.
What is your dream for the future of early-childhood education?
I have a dream that we will influence the way education happens in K-12 classrooms and beyond. In this future, every person who works with young children—teachers, nannies, administrators—will all be respected as professionals who directly contribute to each child’s success. Not just their success as young learners but also their success as they grow into productive adults in our society.