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Six Education Trends for You to Consider and Embrace

Posted on: April 1st, 2021 by Kristen Miller

The Future of Learning In the Susquehanna Valley

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

The entire education world, and beyond, was rocked in 2020. It was forced to evolve and change at lightning speed. While shedding decades of tradition, it tried to adapt to the demands of a global health crisis.

And yes, it was a struggle. And added to those educational challenges were the personal challenges of living through a pandemic. There was trauma, loss of loved ones, isolation, fear, and the emotional impact on the professionals working day in and day out. Those deemed essential employees.

But even amid the crisis, the struggle, there were glimpses of light. In education, that looked like options. Along with a deeper appreciation for the industry, overall, and its professionals – from school nurses to administrators, from teaching assistants to bus drivers. And teachers, those teaching babies, preschoolers, K-12, and beyond. Definitely the teachers. Deservedly so. 

In the midst of unrest, tension, and a public health crisis the likes of which none of us had ever seen, the education community stepped up. And leaned in. Virtually. And in-person. Through a combination of approaches. Many family home-based child care providers never stopped providing care. Not for a single day. And centers applied for waivers and re-opened as quickly as they could. As always, child care provided a strong foundation for our economy, our families, our children.

And wow, there was a learning curve. For everyone. But there was grace. Our educators, those positioned to teach and guide and lecture, were in a storm.. But they adjusted. And pivoted. And learned a thing or two this past year. About their resilience, their profession, the impact they have on their students, their families, the community, and the greater economy

So let’s take a look at where education is, where it’s going, and the long-term trends and innovations that are on the horizon.

Where is Education Going in 2021?

We are all so proud of our education partners, leaders, parents, and our students. They have adjusted their day-to-day and continue to do their best amidst global, rapid change.

And as we look to the 2021-22 school year, one of the things we found most positive for our students is going to stick around. 

Choice.

In a recent conversation with Randi B. Payne, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent at Northeastern School District, she shared, “As we look toward next year and beyond, I think we are realizing a new arena of K-12 public education. Students and families have a great deal of choice within our public schools right now. For instance, students can attend fully in-person, fully online – synchronously, fully online – asynchronously, or a blended option of some in-person and some online. We have found that there’s a population of consumers for each of these models. To meet our families’ needs, we’ll need to maintain the options that they’ve come to appreciate.” 

She continued on to say, “for teachers, some prefer teaching in person and some prefer online. Moving forward, teachers will be able to focus on their instructional strengths by teaching in the model that best matches their skills.”

An innovative approach to meet the needs of our students and teachers in the most effective way possible. 

The Impact on the Teaching Profession

Early childhood teachers all the way through to post-secondary, teachers have been through it this year. 

This past week and month, teachers across our region received their vaccine. And tears were shed. Tears of hope, tears of courage, tears for what they’ve walked through. For what was, and for what’s to come.

In this new age, their demands continue to grow. And grow. 

As we move forward, our teachers need support to address the new and changing demands of the children and families they serve. They are going to need time and patience to address the gaps and challenges left in the wake of the pandemic. Along with additional training and peer groups to foster support for children with socio-emotional and behavioral issues.

Along with a rework of the current performance standards, so they can meet each student where they are and to adapt to the realities of the past year’s impact on children’s development.

In chatting with Ruby Martin, M.Ed., Chief Child and Youth Program Officer at YWCA York, she expressed her hopes, “that next school year will mean less stress and less exhaustion for our teachers.”

A sentiment we can all get behind. 

Because the impact on our teachers has been staggering. In fact, a nationwide poll of educators conducted by the National Education Association found that 28 percent of teachers surveyed said the pandemic has made them more likely to retire early or leave the profession. That number includes a significant number of new or young teachers – one in five teachers with less than 10 years experience. It also includes 40 percent of teachers with 21 to 30 years experience, and 55 percent of those with more than 30 years.1

A challenge that could heighten the already desperate need for qualified teachers, leading to an even bigger shortage here in the U.S. In the early education sector, this issue is exacerbated by extremely low pay, long hours, and little support for the vital role they play in supporting children’s development. 

We need to work to retain our educators, those who give so much to their students and their profession, and at the same time attract new educators. 

Knowing what this next school year will bring is a start. As a community, we can use that knowledge to be proactive in creating policies and services that address the current challenges. We can craft a nurturing, more inclusive, more equitable approach to meet the needs of our students, our teachers, our support staff, and our economy.

Six Trends in Education in 2021 and Beyond

To craft that approach, we’ll need to set our collective sights on these six, high-priority trends and focus areas. A holistic view on the future of education.

  1. The Mental Health of Students

Look, our children are struggling, struggling, with socio-emotional and mental health issues as a result of the stressors of this past year. And so are parents, guardians, and our educators, too.

And it’s up to us, the helping professions – the non-profit agencies, the education system, and the medical profession – to pay close attention to the overall wellness of children. And to proactively implement prevention and intervention programs to help the children and their families.

If you’re a caregiver, you can have an even greater impact for your children. Increase your awareness of the signs of mental health struggles in children, and seek help, if needed. Reach out to the support systems in place, be it your pediatrician, teacher,  your school counselor or administrator, or a telehealth professional through your workplace health program.

From a school leader’s perspective, Randi B. Payne, Ed.D., said, “I think we all recognize the importance of mental health services, especially for our young people. The time with limited social interaction, athletics, and the arts has definitely taken its toll. We’ll need to focus our efforts on the social-emotional side of learning for some time as we move forward.”

Focusing on mental health is an absolute must.

  1. Equity to Access and Learning

As you know, there is a big gap that exists in our region, in our country, and it’s the economic disparities between school districts. At the core of it is an archaic funding formula that reinforces the differences between communities with wealth and resources – and those without.  

There’s an even bigger chasm between early childhood education and K-12 schools. The amount of public funding for early childhood education and child care is woefully short of the needs. And for middle class families, there is no support to help them with the cost of child care. This has been a problem for decades, and it’s time to solve the child care crisis.

It’s essential that we address it. And work together on viable and effective solutions.

And it’s linked to the diversity, equity, inclusion, and racism issues challenging our country, region, and school districts. Some school districts need more support, additional resources to ensure that each and every child has access to high-quality education.  

And this additional support needs to start at the earliest of ages.

In Pennsylvania, there are over 475,000 low-income children aged 0-8. That’s 39% of all children in the State as reported by The National Center for Children in Poverty. In diving into their data, there are major percentile differences for children of color. The percentages for low-income children in the same age group are: 70% Non-Hispanic Black; 65% Hispanic/Latino; 30% Asian-American; and 27% Non-Hispanic White. 2

Differences Ruby Martin, M.Ed., is all too familiar with. “In York City, students really struggled with being connected at the end of 2019-20. And then staying engaged this school year. The disparity between our urban center and the surrounding districts has grown significantly this past year, and we may spend the next five years trying to recover from the additional disparities caused by Covid-19.”

Equity to access and learning is a top priority in our region.

  1. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Improving access is key. And so is changing the diversity, equity, and inclusion landscape of education and curriculum. The curriculum must include more content regarding underrepresented communities and be a reflection of all stories, not just some stories.

The curriculum changes should be accompanied by culture change. They work together. And it starts by fostering a more welcoming culture within our buildings, our hallways, our classrooms, and all virtual spaces in the education arena. For children of all ages. To provide opportunities for them to see and be seen.

Things like assigning and reading literature from a broad range of authors and sharing the history of all cultures will help. Encouraging and attracting a more diverse workforce in and around the education system will make for a more inclusive environment. This environment will provide a place for safe, productive conversations about pressing current events at all levels of education and within leadership.

And will give our students space to innovate, leading the culture shift. 

And encourage our leaders, administrators, and board members to take best practices from the decades of inclusivity work corporations have been doing within their workplaces. And work on implementing them in a school setting. 

  1. Experiential, Individualized Learning 

Another trend to embrace is a more individualized learning experience for students. We’ll start to see more student-led design groups, small-scale innovations, and peer-to-peer conversations focused on a common goal.

And as we do, we need to redefine what “mastery” means and the expectations we have for students. And how we measure success and adequate learning. 

In ten or twenty years, education at all levels will occur both in-person and remotely. And if your school, your district doesn’t have a teacher certified in a particular specialty or enough students to make a class, then you can connect with another school or district. 

In that same conversation with Ruby Martin, she shared her beliefs. “We will see elements of cyber and homeschool learning in public education. With a shift of curriculum, from large group instruction to a more focused, individualized instruction. A response to meet children where they are. This will allow students to feel more empowered to share their own goals for learning, to be assessed authentically, and be more active, valued participants in their own experiences.”

This past year has shined a light on what works really well for each student, for each family. And the education community has a real opportunity to take the best of each facet and adapt it in their own way to enhance the learning experience.

  1. Innovative Classroom Design

Another area for improvement is classroom design. The traditional classroom, be it in public school, private school, in-home, has been relatively unchanged for decades. 

In early childhood education programs, home and center based, there is much more emphasis on individualized, child centered learning through active engagement and play. Following the child’s interests and lead. The K-12 system has much to learn from the child care system.

Recently, we’ve seen a shift to a more open, flexible learning space where a teacher guides the experience, instead of teaching to the collective whole of the class about a specific subject or topic. 

The pandemic has had a silver lining of further requiring schools to reconsider classroom design and the “when,” “where” and “how” of learning. To what extent and how quickly these lessons drive the formation of K-12’s next iteration is uncertain, but the table is set with significant opportunities for forward-thinking districts this year.3

As education evolves, classrooms will, too. Teachers will continue to use more and more technology in the classroom, resulting in more individualized instruction for each child. And the trend towards experiential learning – learning through play and active engagement and exploration of the world – will increase.

  1. Change for Early Childhood Educators

Early childhood educators are the forgotten heroes of this past year. Working with far less pay, even when they have the same teaching certificate as their K-12 colleagues. 

Government officials, business owners, and the public expected them to work during the height of the pandemic. And of course, they did. Very early on we rediscovered what the industry has known all along – early childhood educators are essential. Essential for the economy, yes. And essential for the mental health and well-being of children and their family unit, ensuring a safe, high-quality environment for play, growth, and development.

It is my hope that within five years early childhood education teachers are paid at the same rate as the K-12 system they feed into, and there is financial support for all families to help with child care costs. In the same way that all families are supported by the public K-12 system regardless of their income.

Creating a seamless opportunity for each whole child, each student, from birth to graduation. To ensure that all children are successful in school and life.

How Parents, Community Leaders, and Educators Can Work Together

We talked about where education is right now, and where it’s going. We covered choice, and how it’s here to stay. And we reviewed six trends in education: the mental health of students, equity to access and learning, diversity, equity, and inclusion, experiential/ individualized learning, innovative classroom design, and change for early childhood educators.

And that’s a lot. A lot.

But it may have left you wondering, how can I, as a parent, a guardian, a community leader, or an educator work to make this progress, these changes happen?

First of all, good for you for recognizing your role. Because you do have an active role. 

You can continue to evolve your own holistic view of child development and rethink what “mastery” means. An example? A kindergartner. Let’s just say this particular kindergartner, as so many are, is “behind” what kindergarteners of years ago were doing. Instead of thinking, ‘wow, he’s behind’, adapt your thinking to meet him where he is, as a whole student. Accept and welcome her into this next year, slowly. Take time to celebrate what  she knows and can do, what she accomplished over the last year. 

Because there is harm in pushing children to acquire and retain certain knowledge and skills, especially this year. So be gentle. With your expectations, with your understanding, with your mental health and theirs. 

And as you look at the whole student, look at the whole population, too. Acknowledge the disparities, work to understand the public and community’s role in creating them. And in the systems we created. Commit to not just studying them and talking about them, but to do the hard work of ensuring that every child has the opportunity to be successful in a quality early childhood education program and school, so they can be successful in life.

Because all students matter. Each and every life. 

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.”

– Brené Brown


Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They are the backbone of the economy, serving childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more and to donate, visit childcareconsultants.org.


Sources:

1 Safety Concerns Over Covid-19 Driving Some Educators Out

2 Early Success Progress Report 2021

3 Eight K-12 Trends to Watch in 2021 


To Continue the Conversation, Check Out These Articles:

A Little Love for Early Childcare Education Workers

A Closer Look at the State of Public Education in 2021

One Leaders Thoughts for a More Inclusive Work Culture

One Leader’s Thoughts for a More Inclusive Work Culture

Posted on: March 22nd, 2021 by Kristen Miller

A Conversation About Respect, Compassion, Kindness, and Inclusion

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

Diversity. Equity. And inclusion.

You’ve heard the words, and you may even be working hard to promote them in your community. In your circle.

You know it’s important work, essential work, both for yourself and for your organization. 

And you know, to your core, that racism, discrimination, and intolerance are not acceptable. 

In a year filled with hate and oppression, you could have taken the easy road, sitting back and staying quiet. But you’re focused on self-reflection and self-awareness. Because a change in your organization starts with you.

It’s about asking how can I and my organization be better? Better individually, and better collectively? How can we be sure that we’re being respectful, kind, and compassionate? How can we work to improve our understanding, our acceptance, and our approach? 

Here are three things that Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC), a nonprofit organization serving a diverse region in south-central Pennsylvania, have embraced. And you can, too.

Acknowledge Your Implicit Bias

It’s essential you recognize implicit bias in yourself. And really acknowledge it. Talk about it. And explore it.

CCC partnered with Dr. Jessica Spradley, co-founder and lead consultant with Care Based Leadership, LLC, for a series of diversity, equity, and inclusion workshops.  This was the first step in our three-year intensive work on diversity, equity, and inclusion; funded by the Donley Foundation.

And it starts with an understanding of bias, as shared by Dr. Spradley; its definition, a tendency, inclination, or prejudice toward or against something or someone.

Dr. Spradley noted that all bias is not bad. It is most often implicit bias, or the things we don’t acknowledge we believe, that becomes harmful in our interactions with other people. 

Consider your own life. Do you ever question why you made decisions? 

Most often we just say it is intuition or comfort, but bias plays a huge part. It is easy to acknowledge bias when you feel it is inconsequential. The work begins when we move into the spaces that push us beyond our comfort zone.  

The work gets hard when we reflect on what we were taught by our family, friends, teachers, faith communities, and other organizations we are a part of. It takes personal reflection and strength to change our beliefs, influence our organizations, and have a positive impact on our community. 

It’s up to you, and me, to do the deep work of becoming aware of our biases – especially when we don’t think we have any – and work to eliminate them.

As a white person, I have privileges based solely on the color of my skin. And this is true even though I’m not a wealthy person and have faced other challenges in my life. White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard. It means your life hasn’t been made harder because of the color of your skin. 

CCC is on a journey. We are committed to addressing all areas that can help us improve our capacity to ensure everyone is welcome here. 

With a deeper awareness, what are you going to do to bring about a more accepting, inclusive, and respectful community?

Prioritize Appreciation, Acceptance, and Value

The team at CCC wants you to feel appreciated, welcomed, and valued – as a colleague, a client, a partner, a provider; as a human being. We started with a confidential culture and climate survey of our staff that we used to guide our diversity, equity, and inclusion work.

“Allow people to be people, to be human. Commit to caring for each other and your diverse clients at a deep level daily.”

– Dr. Jessica Spradley, Care Based Leadership, LLC

Something the team agreed to early in our diversity, equity, and inclusion work, was to be open, and to listen, really listen to the life experiences of those around us.

There’s power in understanding. You are on your own journey, moving at your own pace. Add to that your organization is on a journey, deciding collectively how to continue to grow, to improve, and to identify where it falls short. 

Because everyone falls short. Individually and collectively. Each person, each human has intentionally or unintentionally said things that hurt others.

So we strive to do better. We know we can and will do better, for ourselves, for our clients, and the communities we serve. And you know it, too.

It’s about growth, individual growth, and growth as an agency. 

It’s about appreciating each other, the struggles, the challenges, and the opportunities. And it’s about fostering a welcoming culture.

To continue our growth journey, and really do the work to strengthen our culture, CCC formed an Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Committee. It’s volunteer. And 20% of the staff participates. 

The committee has written a mission, vision, and values statement to guide their work. And is crafting an organization position statement that will be adopted by CCC staff and Board of Directors. They’ll also review our workspace, documents, policies and procedures, everything we do, to ensure we are being respectful, equitable, and inclusive. 

In years two and three of our work, we will share the lessons we learned with early childhood education programs and community partners. We will provide workshops, community conversations, and opportunities for them to review and develop their own policies and procedures. 

It’s important to us to be a catalyst for change. Because research shows that children of color, particularly Black boys, are more likely to be suspended or expelled from childcare programs. This is true regardless of the ethnicity or race of their teacher. These boys are statistically more likely to end up expelled in the K -12 system and end up in the juvenile justice or prison system. 

And it can be traced back to how they are included – or not – in their early learning experiences. When I heard these stats, I knew I had to do something. And as the agency whose mission is to improve childcare programs, and ensure every child has high-quality care, so they can be successful in school and life, so did CCC. And to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues within the childcare field, we had to do the internal work first.

We are committed. The goal is to ensure that every child, every family, every staff person served by our partners is valued and included.

Commit, and Recommit, to a Goal of Respect

Look, it’s not an expectation that we will all think the same, or have the same beliefs.

It’s about committing to a goal of respect, and having grace with each other as you reflect and grow in real-time. 

Biases exist in many forms, from race, ethnicity, and sexual identities – LGBTQ+, to socio-economic differences, cultural differences, and regional differences. 

And those biases are formed through a lens of the experiences, trauma, and influences you’ve had in your life.

You’ve seen some things. And experienced things that have shaped and molded who you are today. Some for the better and some, honestly, for the worse. But we can all grow, learn, and change.  

This work is not about making you or me feel bad, it’s not about labels or politics – it’s about a commitment to yourself and each other.

A commitment to participate in the conversation, to be your authentic self, and to learn from others.

When I came to this community 20 years ago, with my husband and kids, we had a life-changing experience. Days after arriving, tucked in our newspaper we found hate literature inviting us to a KKK rally. A KKK rally. Two days later, my husband and I, along with our three-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, were in Continental Square – protesting. 

We took a hard stand, and we continue to do so. Racism, discrimination, and intolerance are not acceptable. Not then. Not now. Not ever.

It is my hope, deep commitment, and sincere expectation that I and all of us do the hard work of personal reflection, checking our internal dialogue honestly. And that we commit and recommit, to the goals of respect, compassion, kindness, inclusion, equity, and antiracism.


Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is an inclusive nonprofit. Its mission is to ensure that all families have access to affordable, high-quality child care choices that lead to success in school and life. All families. 

CCC strives to be an effective, authentic ally and advocate, providing opportunities for meaningful interactions and input from those we serve. 

In 2020, CCC was awarded a three-year grant from the Donley Foundation to focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion issues, both internally and externally. CCC is committed to meaningful reflection and change. This grant is helping them live up to their aspirations of mutual respect, service to others, and compassion here in the central Pennsylvania region.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more and to donate, visit childcareconsultants.org.


About Care Based Leadership, LLC

Care Based Leadership, LLC supports organizations by providing inclusion and diversity training, cultural analysis, and other relevant talent development services.

Its co-founders, Jessica and Paul Spradley, are committed to caring for rather than caring about historically marginalized people.

Together, they work to increase the capacity of diversity, equity, and inclusion in a unique way for each of their clients and contribute to the growth of businesses, organizations, and educators all over the world.  
For more information, visit carebasedleadership.org.

A Closer Look at the State of Public Education in 2021

Posted on: February 22nd, 2021 by Kristen Miller

Parents in South-Central Pennsylvania Express Gratitude

As you approach the one year mark of living in a global pandemic, you’re still feeling the intense weight of stress and anxiety it’s brought you and your neighbors.

Health concerns. Financial concerns. Emotional concerns. Social concerns. 

And as a parent, a caregiver, you’re concerned about your child. Your children. And their learning and development. 

No matter what stage you’re in… from first-time parents of school-aged children – yes, Kindergarten registration is underway – to the most seasoned caregivers, you have questions.

So. Many. Questions.

Questions like… 

Is your child falling behind? Is she keeping up? Struggling? Learning and retaining information? How is he doing emotionally? How will missing out on major milestones and life events impact her? 

What are the long-term effects? And if all students are “in the same boat,” what does “falling behind” even mean?

It’s been hard, impossible even, to find answers, good, quality answers, because this type of shutdown and major pandemic pivot is unprecedented in our modern system.

Yes, the school system, nationwide, is built on in-classroom learning. And this past year has been a struggle. One you see and feel daily as you lead your family through it. 

You are living through what will be looked back on as a historical shift. In so many ways, but most notably, in education. Take solace, you’re not alone.

A Look at the Pandemic’s Impact on Education from a National Level

While many of your friends may have felt like this past year put a pause on life and on learning, current research says differently.

A recent study conducted by NWEA – with data from over 4 million students in third through eighth-graders – is helping to shape preliminary results on the state of education year over year.

A snapshot of their findings gives us a better idea as to how students in late elementary through middle school are doing, an opportunity for us all to better understand the challenges of this unprecedented disruption.

Here are the key findings…

Reading Advancements

Good news here. The report reads “In some ways, our findings show an optimistic picture: in reading, on average, the achievement percentiles of students this fall are similar to those of same grade students last year, and in almost all grades, most students made some learning gains since the COVID-19 pandemic started.”

It shows caregiver involvement, technology, and a forced but evolved response by the education community worked. Students made educational gains in learning, particularly in reading, during the pandemic.

Decades of research tell us the most important thing you can do to prepare young children for academic success is to read to them and promote reading as they enter the K-12 system.

Math Performance

Okay, so it’s not all positive. The study concluded, “Student achievement was 5 to 10 percentile points lower than the pre-COVID-19 performance by same-grade students last fall [2019], and students showed lower growth in math across grades 3 to 8 relative to peers in the previous, more typical year.”

Math performance has proved to be a challenging area for students with the barriers and hurdles experienced this past year. Not so surprising, given the circumstances. But something to pay attention to as a parent, a caregiver.

Varying Results 

It’s what you probably figured. Each child, each grade level has varying levels of academic achievement and challenges. 

The researchers share, “Our findings show that the impacts of COVID-19 disruptions on student achievement were not the blanket declines many expected, but were instead uneven across subjects and across grade levels.”

You see this in your own home, and as you talk to your peers and your friends. You’re experiencing the pandemic and its challenges uniquely, both independently and as a family.

But be reassured. The data is a sign of hope; and it’s a testament to the innovation of our educators, the strong will of our children, and how we all are rising to the occasion.

The Advancement of Education in South-Central Pennsylvania 

A quick look at neighboring states tells quite a story. One of the biggest differences? The public education system. It’s come a long way in the past year and risen to the occasion, showing care and concern as well as flexibility.

And as a Pennsylvanian, I’m proud of our response as a community to this health crisis, and I’m proud of our youth, our educators, and our systems for showing up strong.

To better understand our public school system, and get to the heart of it, listen in on the perspective of an administrator and parents right here in our region.

A Leadership Perspective

Faced with what seemed like impossible decisions, Nathan Van Deusen, Ed.D., Superintendent of the South Eastern School District in York County, shared his approach. 

He said, “Over the course of the pandemic, we worked to simplify a very complex problem by focusing on our just cause, our “why.” The following statement helped us moor decisions as a public school entity.  

The SESD exists to INSPIRE and IMPACT learners.  We do this by providing a comprehensive, innovative, and personalized educational experience that removes barriers.

As we began to make decisions on our reopening plan, we consistently went back to the question, ‘which teaching and learning frameworks will inspire, impact, and remove barriers for our students?’”

Even during unprecedented times, administrators and leaders in our region asked hard questions and were committed, really committed, to helping students succeed. One way they did that was by offering choice for students and families. In the case of South Eastern School District, they offered four options: full-time in-person, hybrid, virtual, and cyber.

A Parent’s Perspective

What are parents in your region saying? How are they encouraging their neighbors, their friends, and those first-time school-aged parents registering for Kindergarten as we speak? 

Let’s take a look.

“I feel blessed that both my kids (3rd & 1st) are safe and learning in the classroom – social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands frequently. They are so adaptable and enjoy interacting with their classmates and teachers. And I’m still engaged in their learning, with apps like ClassDojo and Google Classroom. I appreciate all that the staff and teachers have provided during this challenging school year.”

– Nicole P.

“We were very apprehensive at first about sending our kids to in-person learning. However, we knew it was the right choice for them (9th, 1st, PreK). We have been pleasantly surprised with everything so far. Within the first couple of weeks, it was amazing to see how well they were adjusting and how resilient they truly are. The teachers and staff have been absolutely wonderful and so understanding. We are truly grateful.”

– Mary J.

“Motherhood is a journey of learning to let go (4th, 2nd, PreK). And honestly, as I prepare to send my youngest to Kindergarten this year my heart aches. That said, I am choosing to focus on the joy and light that my little girl is going to bring to the world and this is the next step.”

– Eleanor L.

Wisdom from parents, caregivers, and leaders here in our community. Snippets of conversations being had all over the Susquehanna Valley, and beyond. And a behind-the-scenes look at how one district is making decisions for students and staff.  

Encouragement to Help Your Student Thrive

It has been a year. And wow, you are strong. And reliable. And caring. You’ve helped your child, your student, weather the storm, in the most challenging of circumstances. 

So take stock and pause for a minute. And breathe. You are doing the best you can. And so is your child.

To take some of the pressure off and give you a bit of encouragement, here are three ideas to consider in your own home; for yourself and for your children. Whether they are gearing up to enter Kindergarten in the Fall or are graduating in a few months, these ideas might just give you (and them!) an extra boost to end the year strong.

Make One Small Change

It’s easy to get caught up in overwhelm and just freeze. Head in the sand. When thinking of your child’s education, his future, you may panic and hit the pause button. 

“When making plans, think big. When making progress, think small.”

– James Clear

Instead, try thinking small. Focus on one small change.

Work together with your child to identify an area of progress. One specific area. Make it both doable and simple. Maybe a healthier breakfast will help them focus better; maybe a cleaner room or designated space for “school” will help them be more productive. 

Set aside five minutes, together, and work on it. Listen, really listen.

Advocate for Your Child

Talk to your student. Check-in, regularly. Reach out to his teachers. If your child is behind, really, truly behind, and you’ve had conversations with her teacher, start thinking about strategies for additional support. 

There are many options, and once again, it’s an opportunity to work together. What will help? Is it summer school? A tutor? Or after-school care? Maybe your neighbor loves to read and could be recruited to help on a weekly basis for extra reading support or math studies.  

Consider your local library. They offer free, valuable resources and programs to support children of all ages.

Deborah Stipek, Ph.D., a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, suggests asking, “How do we ensure that our children get the best possible opportunities to learn under these challenging circumstances?”

It’s an interesting question, with the change and challenge of the past year. And please understand, Dr. Stipek isn’t suggesting giving your student ‘perfect’ opportunities. 

So go on, ask yourself how your child can get the best opportunities to learn under these challenging times. 

And if you have concerns about your child’s mental health, reach out for support in the same way you would reach out if you had a concern about his physical health. Early childhood education programs and schools have access to mental health professionals. Many of these services are free. Advocate, ask for additional support for your family or child.

For each family, each student, the answer will be unique. Your answer is unique. And it’s okay. 

Nurture a Growth Mindset

We all have either a fixed or a growth mindset. It’s the way we see ourselves, the way we see our abilities and our intelligence. 

A fixed mindset is just that, fixed or unchanging. An example, say your son is struggling with a math concept. Instead of recognizing the struggle as something that is temporary, a fixed mindset would tell him, he’s terrible at math and that he’ll never figure it out. 

A growth mindset is one where she believes in her potential, one where she understands she is developing her intelligence, her ability to learn and figure things out. So in the same example, a growth mindset would tell her it’s just a temporary struggle, one she can work through as she develops her math knowledge.

As a caregiver, nurture your child’s  love of learning by focusing on the process of learning and not the end result – the grade, the report card, the GPA. Encourage play and exploration. 

Give yourself and your child some space, some grace, and focus on what’s really important. Their socio-emotional health. Their mental health. Their sense of self-worth and esteem. 

“Parents can understand what kids are going through, understand how hard it is to stay engaged. Put the focus on the learning and improvement. Get the kids to understand that there is a world out there that desperately needs their contributions in the future. Parents have an important role in helping their children stay in the learning game.”

– Carol Dweck

Remember, you are resilient. Your child is resilient. 

You’re doing the best you can.Your child is doing the best she can.  

Take it one day at a time. Focus on your child’s emotional and mental health, encourage active learning, and celebrate the small wins. 

A centered, calm, well-informed you equals a more confident child. Love matters. The learning and growth will come. 


Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They are the backbone of the economy, serving childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more and to donate, visit childcareconsultants.org.


Did you know… February is Library Lovers Month? Now that’s a month we can all support. Check out all the wonderful things your local library is doing to stay safe while encouraging your love of reading.


Sources:

Learning during COVID-19: Initial findings on students’ reading and math achievement and growth 

Worried Your Kid Is Falling Behind? You’re Not Alone

Carol Dweck on Nurturing Students’ Growth Mindsets Through Protest and Pandemic

Leadership in a New Era: What It Is and How to Navigate It

Posted on: January 28th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

Look Within to Cultivate Your Skills and Your Influence

You’ve seen a bad leader in action. 

And felt it, too.

Maybe you worked for a horrible boss. 

Or a subpar manager. 

You remember the feeling. Your lack of energy at work, your poor attitude, the way you were just waiting for something to go wrong. For her to mess something up. Some days you took that bad energy home with you.

It really affected you. Maybe it’s affecting you right now.

We’ve all been there. Early in our careers, and sometimes throughout our careers, we see, feel, and sense what leadership isn’t.

So what is leadership? Solid leadership? Strong leadership?

What is Leadership in 2021?

Gone are the days where leadership is demonstrated by a fancy title, a position on an organizational chart, or a power suit at the head of a boardroom table.  

One of my favorite definitions is by Nick Palumbo, assistant dean of students for leadership at my alma mater, The State University of New York at Geneseo.

Palumbo says, “Leadership is not position-based or trait-based, but relationship-based. Working together with people to get something done is leadership. You can lead from the front, or you can lead from behind. No matter which position or path you take, as long as you are part of a process that moves people toward a common goal, you are a leader.”

This year, more than ever, look within and cultivate your potential, your skills, and your influence. You are a leader. 

“The world is desperate for braver leaders. It’s time for all of us to step up.”

– Brené Brown

A Shift in Leadership Styles

Remember old school leadership? Leading with an iron fist? Commanding from the front? 

Yes, it may have served our forefathers well. But fast-forward to the 21st century, and, well, we’ve evolved. We want to connect with our work and those we are leading on a deeper level, in a more meaningful way.

And leaders have shifted their approach. Well, the good ones have.

“Leadership skills that have been traditionally identified with women like empathy, team building, and collaboration are now more needed than ever.” 

– Arianna Huffington

In my thirty plus year professional career, the leaders I gravitated toward, the leaders I wanted to emulate were empathetic, collaborative, and curated a sense of team.

You value the feeling of being part of something, of belonging. And you want to be part of a team that’s in sync and working day in and day out for a common cause.

It’s been a welcomed shift, for most. More empathy. More collaboration. Even while working from home in socially distanced environments.

This evolved style of leadership has also been said to look like personal agility. 

In a recent Forbes article outlining leadership trends in 2021, Maureen Metcalf, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, shares “there is a need to increase personal agility in all facets of life. We, as leaders and people, need to continue to adapt to a broad range of changes in our personal and professional lives.”

Leaders embrace change, lean into discomfort, and show up for their team. You saw it firsthand in 2020, and it’s a skill (and a trend) that’s here to stay.

“It’s about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

– Sheryl Sanberg

And in this fast-paced world, one full of rapid change, effective communication between leaders and their team members is key.

How to Communicate Effectively

If you’re anything like me, at the beginning of the pandemic you were over communicating. Sharing information and all the reasons for it, showing up, a lot. Always on. 

And, as things dragged on and on, as you found your rhythm, communication slowed. Sure, it may have been in month four or five, but gosh, you were tired. 

It’s easy to see how communication can fall to the wayside in a short period of time, taking a back seat as you figure out new processes, workload, pivots, and ways of working. 

You’re not alone. You’ve navigated a year of change, of transition, of upending, really. And it’s okay to recognize you have some work to do to improve your communication. We all do.

To find your voice and reconnect with your authentic style of communication, start by building your awareness. Take inventory of what’s working; and what isn’t. Is that mandatory Friday morning meeting draining you and your team? What was it about your last conversation that left you feeling energized and focused? How can you replicate it?

Next, reflect on past mentors, colleagues, or someone you admire. It could be a peer, your boss, an old boss, or even someone you look up to but have never even met. Identify what it is you like about her approach, what you want to emulate. 

Finally, and this often is the easiest part, think of the characteristics or actions that you don’t like when it comes to leaders and communication. Particularly in times of change. What didn’t sit well with you? What did you experience that left you feeling unsupported or lost?

As you reflect, you’ll start to craft a better plan, one where you improve your communication style. And as you do, remember to keep it simple – please, don’t go scheduling a million meetings, a million zoom calls.

Make sure it’s sustainable, for you and your team.

“What you do has far greater impact than what you say.”

– Stephen Covey

The Importance of Authentic Conversations

In the past week, the past month, how many times have you heard the response “okay” when asking a colleague or friend the question, “how are you doing?”

My guess? At least hundreds of  times. And often, we accept the surface response and move into the meat of a meeting, the purpose for gathering.

If that’s the case, I challenge you to make it your mission to truly connect with one person today. A team member. A colleague. A family member or friend.

Look him in the eyes. Ask how he is doing, how he’s really doing. And go deeper. Follow it up with “how can I encourage you?” And listen. Really listen. If it makes sense, follow up with the support he needs or would appreciate.

Leadership is recognizing where your team member is, where she really is, and reassuring her. It’s fully recognizing her as a person, as well as her contribution; and her ideas, reminding her she knows her job better than anyone. 

“Time is the currency of leadership. Spend it wisely.”

– Matt Whiat

It’s finding five minutes, for true connection, deep conversation, without distractions or agendas or lists. And it will empower your people. 

Your time, spent wisely, will encourage your team members to engage in real dialogue. And as you do, you’ll transfer that magic, that ability to connect, to those around you. It will create a more engaged community and culture, one with more authentic conversations. It’s a ripple effect.

Leaders Understand the Significance of Transitions

A secret many good leaders have, and many female leaders excel at: paying attention to and understanding the value of transitions. 

Welcoming a new member of the senior management team? Moving back to an in-person work environment? Adding a new program? Trimming a key focus area to free up resources to invest elsewhere?

All transitions. And all scenarios you as a leader know are significant, requiring your special attention and energy to make successful.  

And then there are personal transitions that happen within your team. Maybe a team member is welcoming a new addition to her family. Or maybe his kids are going back to school full-time. Or maybe she lost someone close to her during a hard, hard season.

All significant transitions. All opportunities for you to connect, authentically. To show compassion and genuine support.

Think back to March 2020. Remember the day your office closed down, the last day you worked in the same space with your colleagues? Maybe you packed up all your stuff, knowing you wouldn’t be back for a week or two. Ugh, bless your sweet, innocent self.

It was a hard transition. Especially when no one really knew how and when it would end and we’d be making the transition back. And for many of us, we are still working remotely, almost a year later. A year later. 

In those early days and as the pandemic stretched on, you either gained a lot of respect for your boss and for the leader within. Or you didn’t. Either way, it influenced your work, your mood, your day-to-day. 

If you’re looking to grow your leadership, your influence, look for the transitions. Big ones. Small ones. Think about how you can value and engage each team member.

“For your own success to be real, it must contribute to the success of others.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

As you do, remember… you are a leader. Your contributions are valued. And this world needs you at your best, at your bravest. 


Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They are the backbone of the economy, serving childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more and to donate, visit childcareconsultants.org.


Sources:

Leadership Trends for 2020 and Beyond

What Makes Good Leaders

How to Redefine Success as a Parent and a Professional

Posted on: January 19th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

Start 2021 With a Fresh Perspective

A New Year. Full of potential, full of opportunity.

Maybe you, like so many of us, are looking at it as a much needed fresh start.

In year’s past, this time of year may have consisted of vision boards, picking a “word of the year” and envisioning all the good things you’d work toward.

But this year, it may look a little different.

Maybe you’re tired. Like bone tired. And fed up.

Or maybe you’ve lost someone close. Or had a health scare.

Chances are good that you’re approaching 2021 a bit, well, apprehensively.

And as you do, maybe you’re not planning a single thing. 

Not a single thing.

A stark contrast to January of 2020.

Guess what?

That’s okay.

You’re okay.

Or maybe you’re one of the lucky ones, and you’re gathering up the magazines, the art supplies and scissors to make your vision board with as much excitement as last year.

That’s okay, too.

No matter how you’re entering 2021, you’ve dealt with a lot. A LOT.

There’s no getting around it.

And so have our kids.

They deserve some attention, too.

And a redefining of ‘success.’

I can’t tell you how many times, over the last nine months, I’ve heard parents and caretakers say… 

“My son just can’t learn online. He’s falling behind.”

“My daughter is really depressed. She used to love school. And now, well, she doesn’t.”

“I worry about him, a lot.”

All valid concerns. All real-life stuff.

It’s why we must redefine success. For you and your mental health. And for your kids. 

And what better time of year to do that than the first month of the year? 

It’s time to look in the mirror while looking within. 

Ken Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP, at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, gives us a bit of perspective. He said, “The best way to protect our children is to shape the lessons gained during this difficult time. We do so best when we intentionally manage​​ our own feelings and experiences with an eye toward helping them build resilience.”

As you work to help your kids, our collective future, ask yourself some questions.

Ground Yourself With 6 Questions This New Year

What worked in 2020?

I know, I know. It was a year. A YEAR.

And the reality is, you learned a lot. Some of it the hard way. 

But some things worked. After all, you did make it out the other side.

You survived. You fought your way through the thickest of it. And you stuck it out. In the craziest of crazy, you’re still standing.

So, take a few minutes and jot down what worked for you in 2020. 

For me, it was a deep faith in my employees. They are amazing. And talented. And caring. And good. Such good humans. And they did the right things in the right ways.

The culture and foundation we have built here at my nonprofit, Child Care Consultants, is one where all staff are valued, trusted, and appreciated. 

It helped us transition to working remotely with confidence. Confidence in our team and in our work. Confidence in our clients, and the excellent, consistent support they receive day in and day out. 

My team taught me a lot this year. And I’m so thankful.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”

‒ Eleanor Roosevelt

What didn’t work in 2020?

This is your opportunity to take inventory and write down the things that didn’t work last year.

For most of us, there’s a lot to choose from.

You can focus on big things or small details. Try your best to capture it all.

Need a good laugh from our inventory? 

In early 2020, CCC formed a Safety Committee. Yes, a Safety Committee. 

The committee worked hard to create policies and procedures. They sent out tip sheets related to home workspaces, ergonomics, and more. But alas, the planned inspection of our office spaces (and possible updates if safety issues were found) didn’t work in the wake of COVID restrictions.

So we intentionally paused that work. And we looked for other ways to better ourselves in a pandemic controlled 2020.

“Only when we are brave enough to explore our darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

‒ Brené Brown

How do you want to feel in 2021?

Okay, so now we’re going deep. 

Remember life before the pandemic? And the crisis that ensued? The uncertainty, unrest, and injustice?

Maybe there is a feeling you felt back before all the changes that you’d like more of.

I, for one, want to feel energized and hopeful in 2021. 

I want to acknowledge all we have been through, collectively as a staff and a community, and personally during this past year. 

Not just the impact of COVID and working remotely, but the personal challenges faced by so many of my team, friends, and family.  

We are joyful, resilient, creative, hardworking, and determined humans.

I want to honor that and build upon our strengths to ensure a better 2021. I want to feel energized and hopeful.

Taken a step further, ask how do I want to make others feel this year?

After naming that feeling you want to inspire, identify a few ways you can spread that feeling. If you’re helping others to feel it, chances are good that you will feel it, too.

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

‒ Theodore Roosevelt

What do you need more of?

Yes, we’re going there. Look within, and really ask yourself what do I need more of?

As a parent, as a professional, as a leader. 

For me, it’s engagement.  

Full, complete engagement. A place where attention, purpose, and interest intersect.

“Work at showing people that you care. It’s been shown that the more other-focused you are, the more people listen to you, gravitate to you, and appreciate you.”

‒ Jack Groppel

As the pandemic drug on (and on), I found it harder to stay actively engaged with ALL members of the CCC team. Now, I’m focused on finding new ways to cultivate real engagement, in a manner that resonates with each individual staff person and with EVERYONE on our team. 

And as I do, I know I’ll feel more energized. And hopeful.

Funny how that works.

What does success look like for you? 

Okay, so this question may be triggering for you. 

And your answer continues to evolve, just as you do.

Does success equal money? Knowledge? Power? A CEO title or a multimillion dollar business? Or does success mean something different?

You’ve lived through a pandemic. A pandemic! And now, in 2021, it’s time to redefine success. To realign. For you, your family, your kids, and your team. 

An example? Your toddler.

If we’re looking at traditional standards, metrics and measurements, yes, your preschooler may have technically “fallen behind.” 

But what did he or she gain? 

Deeper relationships with immediate family? More time outside? Did he or she solve problems independently? Or resolve conflicts with siblings? Learn a new technology to video chat with grandma? Or maybe potty training has been a huge win?

All success. Real-life success.

So pause for a moment, and think about what success looks like for you. 

Figure out a new definition. And claim it. 

Because sometimes, sometimes, a season can shift our entire perspective. And we will carry our newfound knowledge and priorities with us for the rest of our lives.

For me, success is serving my team, my clients, my partners, and constituents with honor, respect, and excellence. 

Success means quality child care for each and every family. So parents can have peace of mind and be productive workers, and so their children have a strong foundation for school and life.  

Success is reflection, revision, and improvement. 

Success is engagement; for me and my team. It’s a focus and commitment. It’s confidence – in each other and in our talent and potential. 

And it’s not being afraid to try new things, to fail, and to learn from those failures.  

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” 

‒ Eloise Ristad

What is your theme for 2021?

Okay, so ‘a theme’ sounds super important. And maybe even a bit daunting.

But you’ve put in the work. And your theme may be pretty clear. That’s great. Jot it down and use it to help you make decisions in the coming year.

If you’re still at a loss, try this exercise. 

Think back to the last gathering you hosted. Chances are, it was over a year ago. But none-the-less, there was probably a party theme.

Remember who you were with? And what you were celebrating? Do you remember the theme?

Who chose it? And how did it add to the gathering?

Maybe it added to the aesthetic and helped you choose decorations and activities during the party. But it didn’t make or break it. It was just a bonus.

So think of your 2021 theme as a bonus. Something to help you navigate the year ahead, keep you on track when your priorities are askew.

Point being, your theme is completely up to you. 

You could choose a theme for your family, for your kids, for your career, or for your life. 

There’s no pressure. It doesn’t have to be permanent or posted on social media. It could even change as 2021 progresses. 

In fact, the simpler, the better.

Themes could be adventure, reading, nature, growth, advancement, hope, health, etc. Literally, there’s no wrong answer. Your theme could be unicorns. And it would be wonderful.

My theme for 2021?

Engagement.

I’m going to work to be more engaged and to encourage those around me to be more engaged. 

So go on, choose a theme. And empower your team to do the same. And your kids. You may be surprised at the themes they come up with. 

As a bonus, it gives you something to collectively work toward.

Build Your Resilience While Holding on to Hope

As you reflect, looking within at your emotions and your failures, you’re building resilience in real-time. You’re growing as you lean into the discomfort.

“When we learn to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.”

‒ Jaeda Dewalt

This human experience, it really is beautiful. So beautiful.

Wishing you resilience, hope, and more of the things you want in 2021.


Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They are the backbone of the economy, serving childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more and to donate, visit childcareconsultants.org.


Sources:

Building Resilience in Uncertain Times

How to Stop Missing Out on Life and Start Becoming More Engaged

A Little Love for Early Childcare Education Workers

Posted on: January 6th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

What does a hero look like to you?

Amidst all of the craziness of this year, the image that pops in your head is probably a person. Maybe it’s someone you know, personally.

It’s no longer a fantasy character fresh from the pages of a comic book or the big screen.

The heroes of 2020 are the essential workers. The medical professionals, farmers, grocery store workers, postal workers, and truck drivers; the delivery drivers, utility workers, K-12 educators, and manufacturing workers. 

And they deserve credit. A lot of credit. So much credit. They are true heroes.

But the hero to the heroes? 

They are the women and men working in early childhood education. 

The ones providing safe, reliable care for the next generation.

Early childcare educators.

For many essential workers, their ability to work through the pandemic rests on the shoulders of these caregivers; these smart, reliable, talented human beings.

Think about it. Even when schools were shut down back in March, many child care centers applied for a waiver and remained open.  They did this without much recognition, thanks, or any hazard pay. 

These professionals, many of them degreed teachers, did this while earning on average $9 per hour. Yes, $9 an hour.

And without them, most essential employees would not be able to work.

The essential workers taking care of our sick loved ones. Delivering groceries and toilet paper to our stores and to our homes. Growing and making those items. The men and women keeping our lights on.

I remember so clearly a conversation back in mid-March. It was the day Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf closed schools. On the other end of the line was a mother of four. A frontline worker. A medical professional. My heart ached for her.

Through her panic, her exhaustion, she shared that her children’s elementary school closed. As did her children’s childcare provider. Overnight. 

I have goosebumps thinking about it. 

For many families, grandparent care was out of the question, too, because of the nature of the virus. Many parents felt they had nowhere to turn. All of their options vanished in an instant.

Luckily, home-based family providers were able to remain open without applying for a waiver, and my organization, Child Care Consultants, Inc., connected her with the quality care her family needed.

Child care is not just an educational issue. It’s a workforce development issue. It’s an economic development issue.

Early Childhood Education is on the Leading Edge

Long before the pandemic began, child care providers operated under policies designed to keep children safe and reduce illness spread. And, as a result, they’ve had to make fewer changes than many families, businesses, and even schools to cope with the novel coronavirus. 

And since then, child care teachers stepped up. They quickly transitioned to supporting children who were learning remotely. 

Most programs are the crucial link between the K-12 teacher and the child, ensuring that the child is participating in the virtual learning, supporting students who need assistance, and helping to promote connections between the teacher and parents. 

They have secured laptops for students when school districts didn’t have enough for every child. They purchased hot spots, upgraded their WIFI, and purchased additional supplies. They set up workstations and provided PPE. 

And cleaning supplies. They have purchased so many cleaning supplies.

Most programs have greatly reduced their staff to child ratio to meet COVID guidelines and meet the increased needs of the school-age children. 

All these extra measures came with a price tag, an added financial burden. But to them, it didn’t matter. The safety of the children and their families came first.

Good Things are Happening in Central Pennsylvania

YWCA York 

Ruby Martin and YWCA York dug deep when the pandemic hit. They quickly stepped up to serve school-age children when the School District of the City of York and Charter Schools went to all remote learning. From reassigning space in their building for classrooms to increasing capacity to reduce their staff-to-child ratio, they were there to serve our children and our community.

“This has been a very trying year for a profession that is already undervalued, underfunded, and underpaid. 

Our Child Care program leadership across the state (and country), face a daily ethical dilemma opening and operating our programs to meet the needs of families and children while trying to keep staff healthy and safe during a pandemic. 

Our child care teaching staff show up each day, ready to work, without complaint; leaving their personal concerns behind to provide reliable, quality care for essential working families. 

Child Care staff are literally superheroes and deserve to be treated as such.”

‒ Ruby Martin, Chief Child and Youth Program Officer at YWCA York

Steps to Success

Michelle Harbaugh, Director of Steps to Success in Leola, acted quickly. She saw a need in her community when four school-age child care programs didn’t reopen for the 2020-21 school year.

She knew the impact it would have, on her community and the families she serves. 

Michelle, with the backing of the Steps to Success Board of Directors, went to Conestoga Valley School District and petitioned to operate the programs. 

Within a week, her request was granted and her program expanded overnight into a multi-site entity. The need for a school-age program within the district was clear and she knew her staff would provide the quality programming their children, families, and community needed. 

Steps to Success now has five locations: four learning centers for school aged and one center for infants to school age.

Child Care Consultants, Inc. 

In February 2020, we started working with staff from the human resource department of our regional healthcare system, WellSpan Health, as they began to realize that the pandemic was coming. 

They knew their essential workers would need child care, including care for their school-age children in order to continue to serve the community. Since that time, we have communicated regularly regarding the status of child care, openings, referral services, and how to ensure their essential workers could, in fact, work.

And if you ask an essential worker what is essential to them, high on his or her list would be quality child care and school-age care for their children. 

You see, most essential workers recognize the importance of early childhood education. They see the joy in their child’s face after a day of learning and playing. And watch patiently as their child shows off his or her latest worksheet or artistic creation. 

They have peace of mind that their children are being cared for, safely, which allows them to focus on the monumental job at hand. 

Early childhood educators are the backbone of our local, state, and national economies.  

How to Support Early Childhood Educators

As you know, early childcare professionals go with little recognition, support, and pay. 

And it’s time to change that.

It’s time for us to say, “We see you. We recognize your efforts and sacrifices. You are essential to essential workers. And you are essential to all of us.”  

Child Care Educators are Essential Employees

These women and men are deserving of us standing outside their programs, ringing bells, banging on pots, and cheering. 

They’re worthy of us debating whether or not it’s safe for them to remain open. 

They’re worthy of people dropping off food, gift cards, and donations of all kinds. 

Most importantly, they are deserving and worthy of increased respect and income. They are worthy of hazard pay.

Want to help?

Here’s Three Things You Can Do To Help the Industry

Show respect. 

Talk to your children about early childhood educators, the profession itself, and how much its people mean to you and your family. Reinforce their importance.

Give back. 

Pay it forward by treating your children’s favorite people extra well this holiday season. Give a gift card, drop off a meal, or give cash.

Share encouragement. 

Take a few moments to connect, to look your child’s teacher in the eyes ‒ your mask can’t take that away ‒ and smile. Ask about her or his day. Handwrite a note this holiday season telling her how much she means to you and your family. And help your little one(s) do the same.

And for the business and political leaders, and the community-at-large, remember the essential worker to the essential workers ‒ the child care workers.

Advocate for them. 

Extend your gratitude to them. 

Lift up their value, shine a light on it. 

We all know it takes a village to raise a child. 

And this year, more than ever, we recognize the talent and true abilities of early childcare educators.

There’s no forgetting it. 

The early childcare profession is important, and its people are heroes. 

They are at the center of our economic recovery. 

Let’s show them a little love.


If you are a childcare worker or provider, and you are struggling, please reach out. We are here for you, both as a resource and as a friend. 

We are in this together.


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No Holiday Party? Here’s How to Celebrate Instead

Are You Thinking About Starting Your Own Home Based Childcare?


About Child Care Consultants, Inc.

Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They, serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org.

No Holiday Party?! Here’s How to Celebrate Instead

Posted on: December 9th, 2020 by Kristen Miller

A Thought-Filled Approach to Reward Your Team

Last year your holiday party was perfect. Well, as close to perfect as it could be. You orchestrated a fancy gathering. Along with an impressive menu full of options sure to delight your team, your colleagues. 

The ambiance was on point. It was festive and cheerful. Upbeat, even. Full of smiles, glasses clinking in cheers.

You really outdid yourself. 

All the things your team has grown to expect with each holiday season. 

Enter 2020. Who would have imagined you’d be missing those people, the ones you used to see every day? And wishing for their company, longing for your holiday parties of years past?

This year, you are struggling, s t r u g g l i n g, to spread a little holiday cheer. You want to celebrate with your team. And they deserve it. They have really impressed you with their dedication and resourcefulness, with their ability to adapt. 

They have blown you away with their amazing response to a global pandemic.

And as much as you want to recreate that over-the-top holiday party they all love, and they all need this year, you know you can’t risk bringing everyone together. 

Have you seen the latest health numbers?! 

The good news? You can still choose happiness and cheer.

Even if your bottom-line is a little lighter than usual. And even if your business is booming, and your team has knocked it out of the park this year. 

Either way, you really want to celebrate your people ‒ your talented people ‒ that have given you and your company so much.

If you’re looking for a thoughtful plan to help you celebrate amid the chaos, I’ve got you covered.

Here’s how to plan your holiday party in 2020.

Think community. Donate and share your love.

This year more than any other you appreciate your community, the place you call home. 

As schools shifted to virtual platforms. As event after event was cancelled. You stayed home, away from the people and places you love. 

Oh how you miss that holiday concert you looked forward to every year. And your local chamber of commerce mixer. You even miss those early morning gatherings. 

What you wouldn’t give to stand side-by-side, freezing, shivering even, watching your hometown parade with pride as little ones giggle and dance. The anticipation, the magic. The bells ringing and people singing as Santa made his way down Main Street.

This year, with the money you may have saved from hosting the holiday party and from delivering those extravagant client gifts, I encourage you to think about your community. And donate that money ‒ and more, if you feel called to ‒ to your favorite local nonprofit. 

It’s a great way to cultivate a sense of community with your team, with your employees, your biggest supporters.

And you can make it fun. Maybe you have a company-wide vote to select a well-deserved nonprofit. Or maybe you create teams. You could go all out and have those teams create a short presentation on the nonprofit they selected, one that means a lot to them. 

“Nonprofits are mission-based organizations serving their communities. Today — and every day — our mission is to come together as a society and help each other. Do one small thing today to achieve that goal and we’ll get through this. Together.”

Source: Council of Nonprofits in March 2020

Give back to those serving your neighbors, your employees, their families. Show them that we are in this together.

Make an end-of-year donation to a local nonprofit. 

Food. It’s all about the food. 

Yes, your people still want to gather, even though it looks a little different this year. And they still want to eat. The emphasis here is on nourishment. 

Let’s face it, in years past the food was always the talk of the party. Yes, it will look different. But you have lots of options.

For starters, you could treat each member with a gift card to a local restaurant. They are easy to distribute and offer each team member the opportunity to select their favorite meal.

Another alternative are boxed meals. This works best if your team is local. 

Reach out to one of your favorite local restaurants, you may be surprised with their creativity and holiday specials. And let’s face it, they would love your business.

“Our industry operates on a small margin, which has been even more strained this year as we adjust to keep our community safe. My hope is that you can find it in your heart to give back this year so that we can be here to serve you for more years to come.”

‒ Toni Calderone, Owner of Tutoni’s Restaurant, Herb & Herd, Cantina, Aviano’s, and Presto! Scratch Pasteria 

It’s been a tough year for the hospitality industry. 

Just like you, and the nonprofit leaders in your community, they have been up at night wondering how in the world they will make the next payroll. How they will handle increased expenses, and when the next regulation or change will be mandated. 

And how they will adjust. Yet again.

These are good people. Business women, business men, mothers, fathers, little league coaches ‒ and sponsors. These folks are the backbone of our communities.

And they are feeling the financial impact. 

“The restaurant industry has been the hardest hit by the coronavirus mandates – suffering more sales and job losses than any other industry in the country.”

‒ Sean Kennedy, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs

As you plan your alternative to the holiday party, show your support to the restaurant industry and give your team something to talk about for years to come.

Gifts. Your team will thank you.

Who doesn’t like a surprise? A thoughtful gift can turn around someone’s day, week, and month. 

I received one recently, and it deeply impacted me. 

This Thanksgiving, I was on my own. My husband was out of town, my kids were in their respective cities and states ‒ one wrapping up her collegiate degree, the other working in his chosen field. With travel bans and safety precautions, we were unable to celebrate together. 

But a few close friends decided to surprise me with a gift. The gift of nourishment and holiday cheer. They brought a plate of Thanksgiving goodness to my doorstep.

It was a surprise and a gesture that I’ll always remember. In this year of so much loss, so much change, it was a welcomed gift. 

So this year, in addition to the seasonal bonus you give your team ‒  yes, they’ve earned it ‒ include a small token of appreciation. A little something that shows how much you care. 

It could be a small gift basket filled to the brim with locally made items. A set of luxury hand soap and lotion would be divine ‒ all of our hands could use a little pampering. Or a small set of office essentials, maybe an upscale notepad and pen.

“Covid has changed everything, including the way we shop and what we buy.  As a small boutique owner, I’ve willingly shifted what I source to become even more of a place of surprise and delight than ever before because that’s what’s needed in this world right now.  

Owning a small business has also allowed me the flexibility to offer unique ways to shop that make the customer feel safe and comfortable based on their own personal preferences.”

‒ Lisa Weigard, Owner of Soulshine Boutique

Bless your team and a local business. They’ve been through it, too. And would love your support.

Let your creativity shine. 

You could purchase a gingerbread house or cookie decorating kit from a local bakery for each team member. How fun?! Or a local experience ‒ a ticket to a drive-through light show with a snack ‒ locally made popcorn or pretzels. Or whatever your town is known for.

Look, you know your people. You know what will bring them a little extra joy this holiday season. So go on, shop local and surprise them. They will thank you.

Gather. Safely, remotely, celebrate as a team.

You’ve planned all the things. A heartfelt donation, food, and gifts. You’re getting excited for the holidays. For the end of 2020, and the start of 2021.

Now, it’s time to bring your people together. Virtually.

This isn’t just another virtual meeting. It’s special. Full of fun and smiles. And festive. So festive. 

Look, this may not be your strong suit. It definitely isn’t mine. But I know my people. And I know who excels in this area. In fact, we have a committee for such things. Yes, a committee.

My advice? Recruit your more festive talent to help you brainstorm. Or even better, to plan the whole thing.

A few ideas, to jumpstart your plan. 

First things first, schedule it. Send out the invite and label it something fun.

Next, think about the mood. The feelings you want the gathering to evoke. It’s not just another all-team zoom meeting. It’s a celebration. So play some festive music. Or wear reindeer antlers and your favorite tacky sweater. Or change up your digital background to bring the cheer. 

And make it interactive. Play games, sing songs, go around and share the things you’re thankful for. Plan an activity to encourage your team to join in on the celebration. And be sure to keep it kid-friendly.

This year is one for the record books. Your team will look back at this year, this holiday season, and remember it. The goal is for them to remember your efforts fondly. To know that in a year of change, of hardship, of loss and struggle, you were there for them. Your company was there for them. Just like they were there for you. 

So bring the joy. And the fun. And show your team how much they mean to you. 

Donations. Food. Gifts. It’s the trifecta.

Even though things look very, very differently this year, you can still reward your team. And strengthen your local economy. And gather, safely.

Let’s celebrate the people around us. 

And let’s support the nonprofits we love, the restaurants we love, and the local businesses we love. With all we have given up this year, we do not have to give that up.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.


Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They are the backbone of the economy, serving childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more and to donate, visit childcareconsultants.org.


Sources:

Which small businesses are most vulnerable to COVID-19–and when

How We Can Support Each Other and Our Communities During the Coronavirus

Resources in South-Central Pennsylvania:

Give Local York Participating Nonprofits

United Way of York County Partner Agencies

York County Economic Alliance Members by Category

Are you thinking about starting your own home based child care?

Posted on: June 15th, 2020 by Kristen Miller

Due to an order from the Governor, Child Care Consultants will be working from home.

Posted on: March 16th, 2020 by Kristen Miller

All providers will receive CCW payments for ALL enrolled children regardless of their attendance or whether or not your program is closed.  No CCW clients will be suspended from the program due to attendance.
If you need to send documents, please email them to info@childcareconsultants.org, your caseworker or mail them. We will be processing US mail and items left in our Lemoyne or York drop box daily. Refer to emails sent to you from CCC staff and the CCC e-newsletter for more details.  We apologize for the inconvenience. Stay safe.  Thank you.

Waitlist Update!

Posted on: November 13th, 2019 by Kristen Miller

ELRC Region 9 (Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon and Perry Counties) currently does not have a waiting list.

ELRC Region 10 (Adams, Lancaster and York Counties)
now has a waitlist date of 11/3/2020.