A New Year’s Countdown: Celebrating our Early Childhood Educators

Early childhood educators have always been unsung heroes–caring for young children, connecting to families, and providing the foundation for day-to-day structures that support entire communities. These roles require incredible dedication and care from early childhood professionals

And, this work has been monumentally more challenging during the past two years. During this time, the hard work of teaching young children collided with trying to keep students and families safe and healthy amidst the backdrop of the pandemic. This year, 2021, has proven to be one of the hardest years yet as early learning centers continue to provide instruction and care for our youngest children despite accumulated exhaustion and constantly changing dynamics and protocols. 

Even with these circumstances, our preschool teachers have endured and achieved so much. As we reflect on 2021, it is clear that early childhood teachers have truly carried so many families and young children through the challenges and disruptions of this year. May we celebrate their efforts as we countdown with 10 reasons we are so grateful for their hard work.  

10. Creating Safe and Nurturing Learning Environments: We are grateful for early childhood teachers who facilitate a comfortable and safe place for students to learn and grow in the midst of unimaginable and ever-changing circumstances. We are especially appreciative of the educators who welcome students into their own little classroom communities each day and who take the time to truly get to know and love the kids, appreciating both their gifts and challenges. You nourish their heads and hearts each day and create stories that they will someday share with their own children. 

9. Being Flexible: We appreciate the willingness of early childcare staff to shift their personal schedules to make sure that early learning centers can meet the needs of families and students. Thank you for doing this as the numbers of students change day-by-day with various students and families needing extra support from school or having to stay home.

8. Offering Patience: This school year, the needs of students and families were markedly different than in past years. Due to the pandemic, many children had fewer opportunities outside of school for practicing social behaviors such as how to share, how to quietly listen to a teacher or a peer, or how to wait for a turn. You have shown incredible patience as you find ways to teach and practice these important skills in your classroom.  

7. Continuously Learning: As students required different tools and strategies this year, teachers responded by finding new ways to teach and facilitate learning while maintaining the positive connections with and between students. Thank you for the hours of professional development, planning, and creativity that go into ensuring positive learning environments for all students. 

6. Cleaning and Sanitizing: While early childhood educators have always known to keep their learning spaces clean and tidy, the continued pandemic thrust additional safety measures and protocols on educational communities. While there is little time in teachers’ schedules for these extra tasks, preschool teachers continue to find a way to keep up with the new demands. Thank you for doing everything you can to keep students and families safe and ensuring that classrooms are always ready for a fresh day of learning adventures. We appreciate the days you arrive early or stay late just to make sure everything is clean and ready for the next day. 

5. Connecting with Families: Parents and families of young children have had much more on their plates this year than in any year in the past. When these busy families arrive at your classroom each day, you greet them with a calm and welcoming spirit. Thank you for sharing your patience and offering grace to families. Your efforts during this difficult time will go on to create meaningful and lasting relationships with these families.  

4. Providing Unique Experiences: With several places, activities, and lessons geared toward young children still not open or available, many early childhood teachers have stepped up to offer fun and exciting learning opportunities beyond the typical school content areas. We appreciate the teachers who have found ways to include new experiences and opportunities for students as well as those teachers who have woven in their own passions to their teaching. You have found ways to help students explore and discover their musical and artistic capabilities and dig deeper into their animal-, nature-, or transportation-related interests. Thank you for finding ways to make your students’ days more colorful, harmonious, and interesting. 

3. Meeting All Students’ Needs: In a year that has been a little harder than most, our children have had greater needs for connection and care. Beyond teaching an entire classroom of young children and ensuring that they all can learn and grow, you have found ways to provide individual attention for students who need a little extra love and support. Thank you for finding ways to provide comfort for scraped knees or bumps on the head, emotional support for students’ worries, and extra hugs for those days when everything feels overwhelming. Your consistent, nurturing support for students makes young children feel seen, supported, safe, and loved. 

2. Providing Continuity and Consistency: At a time when early childhood teachers, themselves, have seen major disruptions in their own personal and professional lives, they have continued to be a source of steady comfort and routine for young children and their families. You have found ways to show up, day after day, and greet students with a warm smile regardless of challenges outside of the classroom. This act of courage and resilience–though not always recognized as such–has helped many students continue to learn and grow this year. 

1. Bringing Energy, Joy, and Fun: In a year when joy has sometimes been hard to find, early childhood teachers were there with smiles and seemingly endless reserves of enthusiasm and energy. Thank you for wearing silly hats, using the fun voices while reading a story, and inviting students to get messy while digging into learning. Thank you for always having an extra bit of cheer for a student having a difficult time and for smoothing out any rough edges in a child’s day. Your deep understanding that joy, fun, and play are important components of school and learning is appreciated by your students and their families. 

This year has been a tough year, but somehow, in some way, early childhood teachers adapted and remained focused on young children learning, growing, and thriving. We are grateful for the steadying continuity they have provided for young children and families and the meaningful work they have done and continue to do each and every day. May the new year bring a continued appreciation for the authentic value of your work along with a recognition of our collective dependency on these efforts. Please know that we value you as people, as professionals, and as an integral part of our children’s lives, especially during hard times.