From Our President: Leadership as Exemplified by NAEYC’s Affiliate Advisory Council
You are here
What does a leader look and sound like to you? Do you see yourself as a leader?
Too often, early childhood educators do not picture themselves as leaders even though they lead in many ways. From leading classrooms and programs to educational initiatives and advocacy, by serving others, you are leading. You are spurring positive change for children, families, and the field. You have the experience and expertise to lead in new ways too.
Over the course of my life, I have taken on different leadership roles, both professionally and personally—starting in college when I joined the Excellence in Leadership student group (which supported students in examining their leadership style) to volunteering for the parent teacher association (PTA) and as a room parent in my children’s classrooms. Leadership presents itself in many ways, and I’ve always sought out opportunities to study multiple leadership styles and how to work effectively in groups. I was called to lead as president of NAEYC’s Governing Board because of my deep dedication to the same values, beliefs, and mission held by NAEYC. I have found that leadership—no matter the level or role—depends on reflective and responsive decision making, collaborating within a community, and having an action-oriented mindset that positively impacts others.
Nurturing leaders is a priority for NAEYC. I have been impressed and inspired by the leadership displayed across this organization and membership. In this column, I would like to elevate a group that exemplifies leadership, the NAEYC Affiliate Advisory Council. In what follows, key members of the Council—Zaina Cahill, Jamie Cho, Gina Forbes, Lucero Irizarry, and Amy McGinn—highlight the Council’s recent efforts and successes. Their dynamic, impactful work is grounded in the same values and beliefs that drew me to NAEYC and to advocacy.
I invite you to connect with your local Affiliate, consider joining the Council, and to accept this call to lead!
Comprised of NAEYC membership from across the country, the NAEYC Affiliate Advisory Council is an advisory body to the Governing Board and staff, elevating and supporting the voices of Affiliates (a vibrant community of nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing local member engagement opportunities, resources, and advocacy efforts). It also promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and justice (DEIBJ) practices related to early childhood education. The Council’s work evolves to meet the needs of Affiliates and the organization. This includes roles on Governing Board committees as well as consulting with NAEYC governance and staff, training and coaching for Affiliates, and advocacy. Our work is varied and steady. The folllowing are a few of the Council’s recent activities.
- During the Spring 2022 Affiliate Leadership Webinars, the Council presented the following three sessions: “Setting the Tone Through Community,” “Landing and Context,” and “Connections to Full Engagement.” These sessions explored our methods for continuous quality improvement, including how we hold ourselves accountable to the ever-changing landscape of our work and personal leadership journeys.
- In November 2022, the Council provided input on the functionality and language of the Focus on the Future survey to ensure that it was accessible to NAEYC members. Additionally, the NAEYC publications team consulted with us on using the most up-to-date and respectful language in its publications regarding gender-diverse communities, being inclusive and reflective of transgender and nonbinary individuals and experiences. The Council also advised the Governing Board to center “members’ and Affiliates’ diverse voices in the ongoing process of strategic planning” and continue to gain input, stories, and feedback from membership, inclusive of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ members.
- Over the course of the last year, Council members and Affiliate leadership deepened our understanding of systemic oppression and equitable action within organizations by participating in a learning series with Dr. Patricia Morgan, who is the founder of the Executive Learning Lab.
We also value coming together during NAEYC conferences. There, we facilitate, deliberate, connect, celebrate, and challenge ourselves, the organization, and the field about central topics and timely issues related to early childhood education. At the 2022 Annual Conference, for example, Affiliates shared their journey with DEIBJ work and their continued adjustment to the post-pandemic landscape. They met and talked with Mark Day, NAEYC’s chief of staff, and Michelle Kang, NAEYC’s chief executive officer. The Council offered storytelling opportunities and moments of reflection, and we shared successes and struggles in putting DEIBJ work at the front of our leadership journeys. The Council facilitated a session, “Affiliate Advisory Council’s DEIB Journey: Part 3,” where we shared the story of our work as an advisory body to NAEYC and as peer facilitators within the Affiliate Network. This session explored the norms, culture, composition, and intentional collaboration used to effectively guide and support NAEYC’s leadership pathways, with a focus on what DEIBJ work looks like in action. At the Professional Learning Institute in 2023, we focused on growing and sustaining Affiliates post-pandemic and offered space for Affiliates to share challenges, innovations, and solutions.
Currently, the Council, alongside Affiliate leadership and the NAEYC Governing Board, is engaged in the five-year review of the Affiliate structure and membership model. This will determine potential changes to ensure the ongoing health and viability of the Affiliate Network, rooted in NAEYC’s Strategic Plan, in order to guide the organization toward continued impact on early childhood education.
In the coming months, in response to the need of Affiliates, we will tailor our support toward coaching in DEIBJ practices. This will include identifying assessment tools that Affiliates can use to evaluate their organizational practices through this lens, as well as utilizing systems we model to support diverse leadership pathways.
We are in our own internal process of reflection and continuous quality improvement as our work evolves with Affiliates and member needs. The Council will continue to support the implementation of NAEYC’s mission and strategic plan while moving the needle toward practices that support and promote DEIBJ.
NAEYC members hold the potential to take on leadership roles, like Council membership. There are many benefits to serving with us, including opportunities to
- advocate for Affiliates, members, children, families, and educators
- meet, collaborate, and learn from Affiliate leaders
- gather in person during at least one NAEYC event each year
- regularly engage virtually to focus on our work
- be a part of the transformation taking place within NAEYC and its Affiliates
Diverse member voices are invaluable, and we eagerly anticipate your contributions to these conversations. Visit NAEYC.org/get-involved to discover and apply for a range of opportunities, including with the Affiliate Advisory Council (NAEYC.org/get-involved/leadership/join-naeycs-affiliate-advisory-council).
Copyright © 2023 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. See Permissions and Reprints online at NAEYC.org/resources/permissions.
Natalie Vega O'Neil is president of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.