Barbara Merrill: Candidate Statement
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My name is Barb Merrill from Johnston, Iowa, and I am honored to be a candidate for the NAEYC Governing Board in an at-large position.
When I was employed late in 2006 as the Iowa AEYC first-ever Executive Director, I felt confident that I could represent the AEYC members in Iowa. My career had included experiences as an early childhood educator, administrator, consultant, instructor and program manager. I had learned in multiple systems and settings, including child care, Head Start, public schools, child care resource and referral, nonprofits, and community colleges. In those roles, I worked directly with young children and their families, teaching and in administration, and with the adults who provide early education services to young children, as an instructor and in project management. Moving to Iowa AEYC, I brought multiple perspectives to my new position. I was enthusiastic about representing my colleagues and leading this organization to new levels.
Eighteen months ago I made the decision to step down from my role as Executive Director of the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children, after over ten years of leading the growth and expansion of that non-profit affiliate organization. I made this decision based on several important considerations, both personal and professional. I knew I had led the successful transition of Iowa AEYC from a membership affiliate of NAEYC with only one part- time staff member who had provided quarterly newsletters and an annual conference to members across the state. We had transformed it to be a strong and growing nonprofit with over twenty employees, six major grant-funded programs, respected as a state leader and providing a positive example for others across the nation. We transitioned easily to the new NAEYC affiliate structure in 2016. As I looked ahead to new challenges at the state and national level, and an increase in the flexibility of my time, I also knew Iowa AEYC deserved new skills and perspectives to take the organization to the next level.
My current position, working with the team at the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® National Center, has continued to provide learning experiences, new colleagues, and new challenges for me as we support our twenty-five participating state programs. In addition to providing technical support for the states implementing the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® and Child Care WAGE$® models, we support initiatives to address education, compensation and retention of our early education workforce. Our leadership is respected across the country as compelling advocates for early childhood educators. The part-time nature of this position gives me a unique advantage of having the time and flexibility to be able to devote what will be required on the NAEYC Governing Board.
Because of my experience and success leading a NAEYC affiliate, I will bring many strengths to the NAEYC Governing Board. I bring a passion for the early education workforce: teachers, consultants, regulators, instructors, administrators, and leaders. I bring an on-the-ground understanding and commitment to inclusivity of each and every member: Members who feel unengaged and unimportant in their roles, members who are discovering the value of their professional association, members who are enthusiastically becoming leaders in their own organizations or in AEYC, and members of all ethnicities, races, ages, genders and role statuses. I bring years of experience in developing and strengthening a non-profit board, from the perspective of an effective executive director, but also through the lens of staff and board member colleagues who also cared deeply about the organization. I bring relationships built over the past fifteen years with leaders in other state affiliates, as well as national leaders and national advocates. I bring a commitment to advocacy, not only for our organizations and workforce, but for all the needs of children and their families around the world. I bring grant writing and contract negotiation experiences. I bring the caring heart of a devoted grandmother of six, hoping to build the best early childhood education system possible, for them and for their children in the future.
As a leader in our field and a member of the early childhood education profession, I am compelled to work on behalf of the early care and education workforce. Early educators shape the development of young children in their most vulnerable and most important first years of life. These direct providers of early education services are often undervalued, poorly compensated, and lack the respect of others. As we work to change this reality, at the same time, our country and most of our states do not require these teachers to meet appropriate standards regarding education levels or accountability. It is my vision that I can continue to impact and improve this situation through my work and my volunteer advocacy.
Leadership development continues to be my focus, as it has especially in the past decade of my career. I feel responsible, as a leader, to nurture and support emerging leaders in our field towards their personal goals, no matter their current role or education level. I have refined my own skills in inviting potential leaders to greater, more challenging tables, supporting their development and progression towards their goals. It is very rewarding to support emerging leaders in our field as they gain the passion and confidence to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
NAEYC deserves to recruit governing board members who are diverse in their backgrounds and experiences, representing different parts of the country and the great variety of our members. Equally important is that governing board members have a realistic understanding of the structure of the organization, its affiliates, and the needs of our members. I am committed to bringing my experience, my leadership skills, and my passion to this table, leading the membership organization as it becomes an even more effective voice for our members, our profession, and most important, the young children, their families, and their teachers. I pledge to work together with my colleagues to promote high-quality early learning for all young children, and advance a diverse, dynamic early childhood profession.
I look forward to meeting more of our NAEYC members in the months ahead, and hearing about the concerns and passions we share for our profession and the children and families we serve. Thank you for your consideration in the NAEYC Governing Board election.