Expanding Skills and Establishing Culture to Create Positive Learning Environments
While serving as a Transitional Living Assistant at Milton Hershey School (MHS), David McCurdy began reading and hearing the buzz around a new plan to develop early childhood education centers (ECECs) throughout Pennsylvania. He was thrilled by the idea of an initiative to provide high-quality early learning environments to underserved children and found himself longing to be part of a program that would give holistic support and resources to families in the local area.
That initiative was Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning (CHS), and David is now a Family Success Advocate who continues to exude the same excitement he had upon first learning about CHS. On why he joined CHS, David remarked, “At the start of my career in social work, I worked closely with families as an in-home Family Counselor. When paired with my experience at MHS, I believed in my heart that I could bridge the two worlds by applying for and being accepted as one of the Family Success Advocates at CHS Hershey.”
David is participating in CHS’ nearly year-long professional development program aimed at leveraging best practices in ECE training to expand the existing skills and knowledge of its teachers and staff and enable them to fully integrate into the CHS approach. When asked about this experience, David said, “The program has been profound and groundbreaking in its idea and belief that creating a positive and supportive environment for staff and teachers is crucial to forming a strong foundation for the child to begin learning.” He also shared that he especially values that CHS has brought together teachers and staff to learn, grow and share their diverse set of values and ideas.
David is a huge proponent of establishing and maintaining a strong culture, and expressed elation to find that the culture set by staff and leadership at CHS is one of genuine and authentic kindness and support.
“Throughout the day, you will often find teachers and staff alike spending time together and participating in conversations, laughter, and joyful giving,” said David. He pointed to convenings, team building exercises, and intentional time together at the start and end of each day to strengthen the relationships amongst the group and serve as opportunities to provide encouragement to each other, both personally and professionally. Selfless is the word he used when describing members of the team and he believes that because of this approach focused on a shared dedication to children and their families, people can be cared for by one another, with a capacity to give even more.
As the opening of the first center nears each day, David’s excitement to get started is growing and he shared, “I am very much looking forward to being able to meet with children and their families and contribute to their growth, milestones, and accomplishments.”