In considering the notion of a Community of Practice (or group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly), it is important to look at the areas around yourself and how those existing agencies can contribute to your professional community. There are many resources and professionals in early childhood education and it is important to know who is available, where to go to find them, and what kinds of opportunities there are to connect or grow as your own professional.
In my area, the Lehigh Valley (Pennyslvania), there are a few agencies that stand out to me to highlight:
Community Services for Children (www.cscinc.org)
Judith Chase began Head Start as a summer pilot in Easton, PA (1965) under President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives. Until 1981, Head Start of the Lehigh Valley was administered through Colonial Northampton Intermediate Unit #20, followed by Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV). In 1981, Patricia W. Levin incorporated Community Services for Children as a platform for numerous early education programs, including Head Start and expanding to house Early Head Start, Pennsylvaia’s Child Care Resource office, Pre-K Counts, North East Regional Key (Keystone STARS) staff and offices, Title 20 subsidized child care management and more.
As a the hub of the early childhood field in the Lehigh Valley, CS, they often act as a liason between the state, licensing bodies, and accredidation bodies and the centers in Northampton and Lehigh Counties, organize and manage all professional development and execute Keystone STARS in our area while simultaneously managing all Head Start and Early Head Start programming in the counties as well.
In first serving the community and Pre-K Counts/Head Start programming, the organization frequently has openings and employment in the classrooms and programs it runs for children and families. Currently the program is seeking assistant teachers, floaters, lead teachers and more. They are also seeking family engagement partners (to work on ECE with the family unit rather than in a classroom setting) and theraputic teachers (to work in high risk infant and toddler facilities – many affected by maternal drug use, malnourishment and poverty). For these roles, all lead and primary teachers require at minimum a Bachelors Degree in ECE (some of which require Level II Certification) while all assistant teachers or floaters typically require an Associates in ECE or a CDA. These positions all note that a valid drivers license is required and english/spanish bilingual applicants are preferred or a plus (depending on the position).
Outside of the classroom, there are always varied opportunities at CSC to work in the greater ECE field in the area. Right now, these opportunities include an Early Learning Mentor Coach, which would be assigned to teachers as a mentor to promote positive development of children in the classroom (requires a Bachelors Degree in ECE, experience in a classroom and certification as a CLASS Observer and PQAS instructor). They also have higher level opportunities including Early Education Managers who supervise programs within the organization(Bachelors degree, 5-10 years experience, supervisory experience required), CCIS Specialists who manage caseloads for subsidized child care (BA preferred, does not need to be ECE related), and Engagement and Enrollment Specialists who provide outreach and recruitment support to Pre-K Counts (requires Associates in Business or related field, BA preferred).
LANAEYC (Lehigh and Northampton AEYC Chapter) (LANAEYC)
The Lehigh and Northampton County chapter of AEYC in Pennsylvania (PENNAEYC) aims to provide an organization for early childhood professionals in our area who can come together to share and explore ways to meet the needs of children that they work with in early care and educational settings. The organization offers many opportunities to members of our ECE community regardless of memebership in the acutal organization, offers professional growth, conferences, advocacy opportuntities and community events for our community of professionals in the surrounding counties.
Currently, the organization is compromised of Board Members that are voted into place and is not made up of paid employment opportunities. They meet the third friday of each month and any interested parties can join the meetings.
Of the members of the Board, the elected officials include a President, VP of Professional Development, VP of Member Outreach/Organizational Development, VP for Public Policy, Affiliate Council, Finance Officer, Secretary, NE Regional Key (Keystone STARS) Liason, and VP for Accredidation. Currently the VP for Accreddidation position is open. Many of thes members of the board are involved in the local ECE community either through working at our area Community Colleges with strong ECE programs, working at Community Services for Children (above) in leadership roles, working in the NE Regional Key office at CSC or are individuals that provide professional develpment and training either through Keystone STARS or our licensing body, DHS. No requirements for board membership are listed. The organization has genderal membership at a count of 275.
United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley (http://www.unitedwayglv.org/)
The United Way offers a varied approach to supporting the community and it’s members from chidren through adulthood and the elderly. The mission of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley (UWGLV) is to provide the leadership, convene the partnerships and develop the resources and solutions that improve our community.
The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley currently has three Community Impact Goals that they wish to reach by 2022:
- Euducation – Impact and increase the number of 3rd grade students reading at grade level by 50%
- Food Access – Increase access and availability of nutritious food to people in the Lehigh Valley by 50%
- Healthy Aging – Increase the number of seniors whose basic needs are met in their homes by 50%
The United Way in the Lehigh Valley’s greatest approach to supporting their education initiatives is promoting school readiness and works to ensure that families receive support and resources to give their children learning experiences, chldren receive a quality pre-K education, students transition successfully into kindergarten, and early learning educators are trained in evidence-based social skills practices. To do this, they organize and maintain the Early Childhood Coalition, which is made up of community members, parents and professionals working with birth-five children in the Lehigh Valley.
Currently, the United Way is seeking many applicants for various community positions such as Safe House Directors at community domestic violence shelters, Direct Service Counselors to provide services to sexual assault and abuse victims, Donor Relations Managers for local Habitat for Humanity, and RSVP Coordinators at RSVP of Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon Counties, providng volunteer experiences to adults 55 and older to keep them involved in their communities.
Directly applicable to ECE and our field, the opportunity of Community Relations Assistant Manger at ProJeCt of Easton Inc (child and adult literacy programs, quality preschool, summer camp, food pantry, school success programs, case management and more). This position would work on primarily on communications, marketing and outreach of the program as a whole. An Associates Degree in any field plus applicable knowlege and skills in communication, technology, media, marketing, facilitating groups and event planning needed. Additionally, a funded positon at the Center for Humanistic Change to provide prevention programs to youth in schools and the community is available as a Contractor/Facilitator position, in which the individual would be contracted to provide and facilitate trainings and small group sessions. Lastly, the AmeriCorps VISTA postings through the United Way include Lehigh Valley Reads VISTA, LVCC Early Childhood Outreach Coordinator VISTA, Community Building VISTA, Kindergarteen Readiness VISTA and Summer Learning Support VISTA. These are unpaid positions require a four year degree and last for one year, recieving a stipend at the end of the contract, while living expenses are covered during the year contract.