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Fostering Leaders & Finding Einstein

When Albert Einstein was a young child, no one believed he would contribute to science, let alone the world.  Einstein struggled with language development and his parents feared he would not learn or catch up to his peers. At the age of five, his parents, his most important teachers, gave him a compass and violin, which accelerated his learning. They did this without the awareness that a child’s brain develops in spurts called “critical periods.” According to the George Lucas Educational Foundation, this occurs around age two, ending around age seven, with a second one occurring during adolescence.

Einstein was lucky. Suppose he had not received encouragement from his parents during that critical period. In that case, he may have never made extraordinary contributions to science. Without him, we might not have things like GPS navigation, alarm clocks, television, compact discs, and DVD players. 

Today, making matters more complex for families across the country, nearly 11 million children live in poverty, with children under five experiencing higher poverty rates than other ages. In Pennsylvania, according to the KIDS COUNT Data Center, 17% of children live in a household with little to no confidence in making their next rent or mortgage payment on time. This means that parents and caregivers often have to work more than one job, limiting time and resources. That is where early childhood educators can and do make a significant difference, partnering with a family to support and influence the trajectory of any child they teach.

As exciting, challenging, and rewarding as a career in early childhood education (ECE) can be, it is a field experiencing a shortage of teachers and high turnover. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 100,000 fewer child care workers than before COVID-19. The data indicates that ECE professionals are often overworked, underpaid, and not encouraged to grow and remain on the ECE career path and, in turn, children, families, and communities suffer.

By fostering a supportive workplace environment that encourages and offers opportunities for professional and personal growth, we are ultimately benefiting the children we serve, partnering with their families to provide them with the consistent support they need to flourish and become their best selves, much like Einstein’s parents were able to accomplish. Giving individuals the tools to thrive as teachers and leaders, we pave the way for current and future educators to meet and continue challenging their own career goals and constantly strive for a standard of greatness in education that benefits everyone.

When children and families have access to quality programming services, and educators, they can become more resilient and empowered to overcome poverty’s disadvantages. The positive character traits children develop can nurture habits that will pay dividends throughout their lives. Meanwhile their families are comforted in knowing that their children are being provided with the best possible care and education and partnered within the process. Building these qualities and attitudes in children does not happen accidentally. They can only be nurtured and maximized when ECE classrooms are equipped with caring, responsive teachers dedicated to upholding professional standards. These standards need to be intentionally taught and reinforced to teachers, creating a professional path for personal growth and development.

As Einstein said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

We cannot all be Einstein and we will not all teach an Einstein. We can, however, work to ensure every child has the best possible start to lifelong learning, which could perhaps lead them to a Nobel Prize. At the most crucial time in a child’s life, the best teachers make a difference and change a child’s future for the better.

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Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning are subsidiaries of Milton Hershey School and will be staffed and operated independently of the Milton Hershey School core model.

Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.