"NAEYC provides the foundation for all I do, to ensure that what I do reflects DAP and the NAEYC Code of Ethics. NAEYC provides me with resources, research, professional development, and networking. It guides higher education institutions, governors and other legislators at all levels, and state department of education staff. It has created a standard of excellence through its national accreditation system for early childhood centers."
Laura Mason Zeisler, Adult Educator and Bilingual Consultant in North Scituate, RI. NAEYC member since 1986.
Tell us about your work with young children:
I started out volunteering in a first through third grade open classroom when I was in ninth grade, to learn how to act child-like for a theatre production. Thus began my interest and joy in working with children. Since then I’ve taught children ages two through third grade in many different environments: Montessori, Head Start, bilingual, dual language immersion, public school, private non-profit and private for-profit early childhood education centers, and before and after-school programs. Every day brought new discoveries, new creations, and new challenges. I love to share my love of learning, and see others realize their own love of learning, exploring, discovering and creating.
One observation I cherish is from my days as a kindergarten teacher (of the English classroom) in a dual language immersion public school. Typically when kindergartners write in English, they do not include vowels but children who learn to write in Spanish do include vowels. My students included vowels consistently when they wrote in English. This is one anecdote which shows the value of dual language immersion schools where children can transfer knowledge from one language to another.
My work these days is as an adult educator and a bilingual consultant. My adult students appreciate that I was a teacher in the past and “get” that working directly with children is demanding and at the same time rewarding as when we notice daily joys in our work with children – whether it is the toddler trying to throw a ball or a preschooler writing letters for the first time. I communicate how culture and language is part of all we do, and how important it is for children to see the familiar integrated in their early childhood space.
What does your NAEYC membership mean to you? How has it impacted your career and influenced your work with young children?
NAEYC provides the foundation for all I do, to ensure that what I do reflects DAP and the NAEYC Code of Ethics. NAEYC provides me with resources, research, professional development, and networking. It guides higher education institutions, governors and other legislators at all levels, and state department of education staff. It has created a standard of excellence through its national accreditation system for early childhood centers. The path I have taken in the field is directly related to the impact of the work of one of the leading voices on anti-bias education Louise Derman-Sparks, author of the NAEYC book, Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves.
I am also actively involved in my local affiliates. Through RIAEYC I developed advocacy and leadership skills, and deepened my professionalism. At the national level I served as Chair of the NEAEYC Diversity Council in the early 90’s and had the opportunity to listen to the Latino early childhood community. They shared with me how native Spanish-speakers might not be able to fully participate in trainings conducted solely in English. They might not have the comfort level (with their English) to express an idea or opinion or ask a question. They emphasized how important it is for early childhood educators who want to learn and improve their practice to be able to actively engage in trainings. From that time forward I advocated for professional development offered in Spanish. Through funding I was able to develop and co-facilitate a peer support network for Spanish-speaking family child care educators using the Spanish version of NAEYC’s magazine TYC (Tesoros y Colores) to focus our work and our discussions. As my Spanish has improved I have taught two college courses in Spanish and formed a Linked-In group to share and discuss resources and practices of training early childhood educators in the US in Spanish.
What is your favorite NAEYC member benefit?
Young Children, Teaching Young Children (in both English and Spanish) and NEXT (for both YC and TYC) all make a difference in my work.
What is your dream for the future of early-childhood education?
I hope that all children have access to affordable, high quality early childhood programs with teaching staff paid a living wage and receiving the support and resources they need. This would include relevant, culturally sensitive and responsive, professional development (in English and in other languages), using best practices for adult learners.
What is your favorite part of your job?
As a bilingual consultant with my own consulting firm, Explorations Unlimited, LLC, I love the variety of my work. I have so many opportunities to be responsive and creative to the diverse early childhood community. I work with local agencies on grant-funded projects such as creating and delivering college courses in Spanish and reaching out to Family, Friend, and Neighbor caregivers to provide information, workshops and materials for the children they care for. I also design professional development content to be used with English and Spanish-speaking early childhood educators and I mentor and support family child care educators. I create bilingual educational materials, often using my original photography and videography.
What’s your favorite book (children’s book or books for adults) and why?
There are so many books, both for children and for adults that I really like. Un Beso en Mi Mano (in English The Kissing Hand) by Audrey Penn is one I’ve shared over and over, in both English and Spanish. It is a story about a young raccoon who is anxious about going to school for the first time. His mother reassures him, and gives him a strategy I’ve used successfully with children: a kiss in the palm of his hand, which he then can press on his cheek to remember that “Mommy loves you.” I love the part when she explains that even when he washes his food (the way raccoons do) the kiss will stay there.