2020 National Teacher of the Year, Tabatha Rosproy Answers Your Questions
We are so excited for the upcoming 2020 Annual Conference! On November 8, Tabatha Rosproy, the first preschool educator to be named National Teacher of the Year, will kick off the event as the Opening Plenary Speaker during her session “Early Childhood: Where Stories Begin.” Ahead of the session, we asked NAEYC Members in Hello to share some questions for Tabatha, and her responses are below.
We hope you'll join us November 8-10 for an educational, inspirational and fun learning experience. Join thousands of other early education professionals from around the globe at the event where learning happens.
What are the highly valued components of full group experiences for preschoolers (i.e. circle time)?
Daily whole group experiences are such a powerful time of connection for my students. I used to spend a lot of time doing the standard calendar, weather, days of the week regimen, but what I have realized over time is that those things are not at the top of my priority list, nor do I think they are super developmentally appropriate for my 4-year-olds. We also know that in Pre-K, we struggle to have enough time for everything we need to fit in, so I had to prioritize. I found that our time is best spent on connection activities, building our school family and laying the foundation for our day. We do things like checking in with our feelings, doing peer to peer connection activities, wishing our absent friends well, welcoming one another, and introducing big ideas for the day. It is time well spent now that I’ve given myself permission to take away some of the things that don’t serve the long-term goals for my students.
In the ideal world, what changes would one see in early childhood education?
I’d love for early childhood education, ages 3-5, to be universally funded by every state. I’d also love to see more 0-3 programs started and funded everywhere! And I absolutely want to see early childhood educators given the same respect, invitations to the table, and comparable pay as our elementary and secondary counterparts.
What strategies does she use to keep her optimism and enthusiasm up in the face of very difficult times?
My husband jokes that I am an eternal optimist. Like I could have my hand smashed in a door and say, “Well, at least my other hand feels okay!” But this pandemic has been a struggle for even the most optimistic of us. The biggest thing I do is positive self-talk. Every day, I say to myself, “I am going to get through this day/experience/moment. And I am going to learn something, because I can grow in discomfort.” I also have taken a lot more time than I usually do on things that bring me joy. I read, watch movies, do crafts, organize virtual game nights with my friends, find places we can meet up outside and social distance, have Friday night dance parties with my cats, play Dungeons & Dragons with my husband, and laugh every chance I get.
First of all I wanted to say congratulations to Tabatha Rosproy! It shows that we are actually making great progress in acknowledgment of early childhood education that a preschool teacher has finally been named teacher of the year so congratulations! I do have a question, "how does it feel?"
Being named National Teacher of the Year feels almost unbelievable! I still wake up sometimes wondering if it was a dream. I never imagined myself receiving this kind of honor, and getting the incredible opportunities it provides. But most of all, I feel proud and determined to give early childhood education the platform it has deserved for so long.
So often when I'm asked, "oh, you're a teacher...what grade?" I explain that I work in early childhood education. The audience then replied with, "so, you're JUST a daycare worker." The disconnect that a teacher can only be K-12 has always bothered me and the bias that occurs from the majority of people who ask me the question and do not realize that ECE is equally if not more essential to our youth and their lifelong learning. So I guess my second question to you is, "how do you respond to that type of interpretation of teaching and education?"
I also get this kind of comment frequently. First off, I say that calling me “just” a daycare worker is diminishing to the hard, essential, valuable work that childcare providers do every day. Our jobs serve different functions in society, but there is definite overlap in our purpose of serving students and families, and childcare providers should also be valued for everything they do for children. But I think the big misconception is that anyone who works with young children isn’t a “serious” professional. That couldn’t be further from the truth. But people aren't going to realize that on their own. It is our job, as ECE teachers, to shape that narrative. And we can do that by using every platform we have to sing the praises, joys, and absolute triumphs of ECE. Awareness builds public perception, and many people just don’t know what we do all day and why it’s important. It’s time we tell them.