Jie-Qi Chen: Candidate Statement
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I have dedicated my career to improving the quality of early education for all children. During my 40 years in the field, I have been a classroom teacher, a teacher educator, and an applied child development researcher. Currently, I am Dean of Faculty and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Erikson Institute, Graduate School in Child Development in Chicago. I am interested in serving on the NAEYC Governing Board because I want to contribute to NAEYC’s further development as the leading early childhood education organization and extend its record of innovative leadership. I envision bringing three principle strengths to the work of the Governing Board that respond to critical issues in the field.
1. My strong commitment to diversity and social justice. My commitment to social justice has its roots in my personal history. Growing up during the cultural revolution in communist China, I was singled out for bullying and discriminated against because my father was jailed as a political dissident. I know how it feels to be excluded and treated as inferior. I also remember the challenges of learning English as a second language at the age of 23. When I arrived in the United States, I struggled to speak English and communicate with others. From my failures and successes, I learned lessons about the value of diversity and equality that have informed and motivated my professional choices throughout my career.
As part of my commitment to social justice, I have worked with urban school teachers in Boston and Chicago to promote equity in the education of disadvantaged and minority children, developed and disseminated approaches to assessment that identify multiple intelligences of young children, and worked with UNICEF to build preschool programs in rural China. In my current role at Erikson, I help steer an institution that prides itself on sustaining a community that embraces diversity and equity to enrich the learning experiences of students, staff, and faculty.
As a NAEYC board member, I will work for social justice and access to quality of education for young children, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. I will advocate for equitable pay and educational opportunities for early childhood professionals. I would welcome the opportunity to work with local chapters to differentiate recruitment strategies to increase the diversity of membership, including young professionals. I will also help NAEYC increase its international impact by furthering its relationships with NAEYC equivalency in China. I am uniquely positioned to serve as a liaison because I am well regarded by and connected with Chinese early educators. Furthering the relationship between the two professional organizations would benefit early educators in both China and the US.
2. My successful experience in developing and sustaining collaborative partnerships. Developing and sustaining collaborative relationships has been a key operating principle in all phases of my work. My effectiveness as a collaborator grows out of my deep commitment to diversity. From my own successes, I know that collaboration increases participants’ investment in the process. Drawing on multiple perspectives and diverse forms of expertise also yields more innovative and powerful results.
The Early Math Collaborative (Collaborative) that I founded at Erikson Institute in 2007 exemplifies my ability to develop collaborative partnerships. The Collaborative began as a small project to offer early math professional development to Pre-K teachers. In 10 years of operation, it grew into a multi-faceted collaborative that works with teachers from birth through fifth grades in a range of settings, including schools, Head Start programs, home visiting programs, and childcare centers across the country and internationally. Beginning with an internal collaboration among a small team of researchers, PD instructors, and coaches, getting the work done quickly required developing external relationships with district administrators, principals, classroom teachers, museum educators, librarians, university partners, young children, their parents, publishers, and founders. The project has a demonstrated record of improved teaching practice and child learning outcomes. Keys to the successes of this sustained collaborative effort include careful strategic planning based on realistic goals, accountability for the delivery of high-quality PD experiences, and a concerted effort to build strong communities of practice on-site.
I share NAEYC’s core belief in collaborative relationships and will employ my expertise to support NAEYC’s strategic priority of developing early childhood professionals who exemplify excellence. Specifically, I am interested in helping design and implement a range of PD programs and resources based on collaborative work involving teachers, teacher educators, and researchers. Such collaborative partnerships capitalize on the diversity of participants’ expertise, translate cutting-edge research into terms that are relevant to classroom teachers, and offer researchers opportunities to learn about research questions that teachers identify through classroom practice.
3. My principled practice of building on strengths to develop individual and organizational potential. School education has a long tradition of emphasizing remediation to help students with learning difficulties. Dr. Howard Gardner, originator of Multiple Intelligences theory, schooled me in approaches that also focus on students’ strengths. From my experiences, I know that focusing on strengths increases the number of ways children can succeed in school. Students are energized by success: it fuels engagement and sustains motivation.
In my career, I have continued the practice of building on strengths. For example, with my colleagues at Harvard and at Erikson, I developed Spectrum and Bridging, two assessment tools for teachers to learn about diverse learning profiles of young children. The assessment results help teachers identify children’s areas of strength and integrate the identified strengths to teaching and learning practice. At Erikson, I am working with faculty and staff to launch a new online master’s program, which is built on the Institute’s strong curriculum based on the core knowledge of child development, with five concentrations of Bilingual/ESL, STEM, Social and Emotional Learning, Early Literacy, and Leadership and Advocacy. The program highlights organizational strengths and amplifies faculty’s expertise.
NAEYC has played a vital role in efforts to transform the early childhood workforce, a national agenda for early educators. My practice can be applied to further strengthen NAEYC’s organizational potential to advance the agenda. Specifically, I am interested in working with the board to capitalize on the organization’s existing strength as a convener to invite local chapters to contribute and offer them opportunities to join with others in elevating the status of the early childhood profession. In my experience, building on strengths is an effective means of nurturing diversity as well as a key strategy in making collaborative partnerships successful. It invites individuals to contribute to group efforts, thereby empowering them and increasing the likelihood of effective teamwork.
In conclusion, I am honored to be a candidate for the NAEYC Governing Board. I appreciate your consideration of my candidacy and hope to have the opportunity to work with you and serve you. When we work together, we build a stronger NAEYC, we elevate the status of early childhood professionals, and we improve the life of young children and their families.