NAEYC Member Spotlight: Dr. Elaine S. Spellman
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The sense of community within the early childhood profession made a deep impression on Dr. Elaine S. Spellman. We can each remember what it felt like to experience the joy, wonder, and sometimes even the overwhelming bustle of early childhood learning environments, as well as the shared energy and awe from witnessing children discover the world. Dr. Spellman has found inspiration in these settings throughout her career. She now strives to give back by supporting and encouraging the next generation of professionals (as a college faculty member) and our youngest learners (while leading a lab school).
It is one of my favorite aspects of the early childhood community—that we love our community and that we do what we can to lift each other up. I am grateful for Dr. Spellman and her commitment to supporting students of all ages, and so glad that she is part of the NAEYC community!
Dr. Elaine S. Spellman
Visiting Assistant Professor / Director of Laboratory School, Elizabeth City, North Carolina
For Dr. Elaine S. Spellman, a fulfilling career in early childhood education includes three major things: community building, continuous growth, and being responsive to and supportive of others. These are the very ingredients that have helped Dr. Spellman thrive as a professional and that she brings to her work every day.
Throughout her career, Dr. Spellman has worn many different hats—as teacher, infant-toddler specialist, doctoral candidate, department chair at a community college, and now as a visiting assistant professor and director of a laboratory school at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina, a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).
Dr. Spellman has known she wanted to be involved in early childhood education since she was in high school. She discovered her passion for the field while participating in an internship at the campus’s early learning program. These positive interactions along with her own journey as a student led Dr. Spellman to want “to pay it forward and create those same learning experiences in my classroom.”
With each step, Dr. Spellman has learned valuable lessons that she incorporates into her newest roles, including fostering a sense of belonging, community, and responsiveness among colleagues and students. “Our administrators, professors, and staff fully support one another,” she says of her coworkers at Elizabeth City State University. “When we work together, everyone at ECSU wins—students, families, administrators, professors, staff, and stakeholders.”
One career highlight came during her time at Martin Community College in Martin County, North Carolina. As the lead instructor and advisor for the early childhood education program, Dr. Spellman spearheaded efforts to attain higher education accreditation through NAEYC for the associate degree in applied science program. Her institution was among a selection of North Carolina community college and university early childhood education programs seeking NAEYC accreditation, and she worked closely with this group as they each went through the process.
Reflecting back, she says, “Many of the instructors formed cohorts and had training sessions of the self-study and initial evaluation. During these sessions, I formed lasting friendships through the peer mentoring.” Receiving NAEYC accreditation was key for the staff and students of these programs.
“Receiving NAEYC accreditation during my tenure at Martin Community College is something that I am still grateful for and proud of to this day,” she says.
Dr. Spellman has been a NAEYC member since 2017 and continues to find value in this robust professional community. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Spellman has relied on NAEYC for guidance and assistance. “The recorded webinars were extremely helpful for our teaching staff, especially during the pandemic, including ‘Families and Educators Supporting Learning at Home’ and ‘Talking to and Supporting Children and Ourselves During the Pandemic.’”
As Dr. Spellman continues her impactful career, she knows that being a NAEYC member aids in her success, with access to in-person and online communities and a formative collection of resources at her disposal. “NAEYC keeps me updated with the current topics and trends in early childhood education. I am excited to know that being a member, I will have access to award-winning, peer-reviewed publications and professional development opportunities.” NAEYC exists for and thrives because of members like Dr. Spellman who have passion and dedication to the field.