A career working with young children and parents

by Tom Bedard in St. Paul, Minnesota

I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1975. My major was child psychology. I thought I wanted to work with young children, so I took a job in a child care center. After six months, I knew that my place was in an early childhood classroom, so I went back to the University to finish coursework to get a pre-k teaching license from the State of Minnesota.  I have been in the field ever since. Except for four years serving as a center director in the mid 1980s, I have been in an early childhood classroom. In 1988, I was hired by the St. Paul School system in St. Paul, MN as an infant/toddler teacher. In 1989 I earned my M Ed in Early Childhood Education from the University of Minnesota.

To this day I continue to work for the St. Paul School in their Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program.  ECFE is a community education program unique to Minnesota. In the program, parents and their children come to school together for one, two-hour class each week. They come together because there is both an early childhood component and a parent education component that run simultaneously. For my part, I see about 120 different children a week ages 2 to 5. Because of the nature of the program, I also work closely with the parents to provide a quality early childhood education experience that extends beyond the classroom.

This has been a very good school year for me. In November, I presented at the annual conference for the National Association for the Education of Young Children in Dallas. I presented on work I have been doing for the past 20 years in and around the sand and water table.  In December, I found out I was nominated by a parent in my ECFE program for Minnesota Teacher of the Year. I was able to use some of my Dallas presentation to document my work. I was named a finalist in March and spent a weekend in the beginning of May with 10 other teachers from around Minnesota. I found out I was the first pre-k teacher from Minnesota to reach the finals in the 45 years the program has been running. Though I was not named Minnesota Teacher of the Year, I found out through the process what my work has meant for children and families—and even colleagues—that I have worked with over the years.  It was humbling, but truly gratifying. It also reinforced for me that I am in the right field.