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Woman Tutoring Child
Young Teacher
Monica Brewer

Spring 2024

Monica Brewer


Children's House of Washington

While still in school to be a pediatric nurse, Children’s House of Washington (CHOW) Director Monica Brewer came across a puzzle she just couldn’t figure out. At the time she had just taken a job as a Montessori classroom assistant to help offset the cost of school, and every day she was drawn to the challenge of the Montessori binomial cube, a 3-D puzzle consisting of 8 wooden blocks that when assembled represent the algebraic equation (a + b)^3.

“You have to manipulate it to put it back to form the cube that fits inside the box, and I couldn’t get it,” said Brewer. “And it was driving me crazy.”

Eventually she did figure it out. All it took was the help of a 4 year old.

“He would come over everyday and say, Ms. Brew, do you need help? And I would say yes, so I became the student and he was the teacher teaching me how to put the cube back together.”

At first, Brewer had difficulty with the fact that she needed a 4-year old to show her how to do a puzzle. 

“In my head I’m saying, this is not right because why is this child teaching me how to do a piece of work?”

Ultimately though, the experience taught her more than how to put together a binomial cube.

“We are taught that we know everything and we should know all the answers to everything,” said Brewer. “We don’t. If I could humble myself to a child to show me something that in itself was difficult for me to learn, but it was easy enough for him to teach me, this is the space I needed to be in.”

This and other moments during her time as a Montessori assistant started a shift in her path from pediatric nursing to early childhood education.  

“The pull became stronger in the classroom than as a pediatric nurse,” said Brewer. “I’m not saying that being a pediatric nurse wasn't going to be fulfilling or helpful to children, but being in that classroom and being a part of that dynamic was far more impactful.”

One piece of the dynamic Brewer wanted to be part of was the Montessori curriculum itself.

“This Montessori classroom was different than [what] I had in my early childhood education,” said Brewer. “Montessori  is a form of education that touches on everything. It helps children focus. It promotes independence. The materials in the classroom are self-directed. The children are self-guided.”

The other piece of the dynamic Brewer wanted to be part of were the children themselves.

“I’ve always known I wanted to work with primary children,” said Brewer. “It was just nice to walk into a space and they’re genuinely happy to see you. It kind of took me back to how this teacher made me feel like she was happy to see me. They were happy to see me and I was happy to see them.”

The teacher in question was Monica’s fourth grade teacher. As a child, Brewer was a self-described “wallflower” who struggled to speak up for herself. So when her fourth grade teacher noticed her, that left an impact.

“My fourth grade teacher paid attention to me and gave me something,” said Brewer. “I gleaned off that and I kind of held onto that because she was so good and kind and sweet to me. It made an imprint on me.”

Besides helping her feel noticed, Brewer’s fourth grade teacher also planted the seed for Brewer’s teaching philosophy.

“I took what that fourth grade teacher gave to me, and I kind of led with that,” said Brewer. “ I lead with that feeling of all children are important because she made me feel as if I was important enough to take time out to speak with. To help me and guide me.”

Guidance has played an important part of Brewer’s ECE journey.  Colleagues at her first Montessori school encouraged her pivot from pediatric nursing to early childhood education. When she joined CHOW to move from being an assistant to a co-teacher, she was able to teach with and learn directly from CHOW’s then director for 15 years. And when her director retired and Brewer stepped into the role, seeking mentorship and therapy was fundamental in building her leadership mentality, even if accepting help wasn’t easy.

“I jumped from being a teacher to being a director, and the learning curve was very sharp,” said Brewer. “I felt like I had jumped off a cliff, a high cliff, and I can’t swim. So I was a fish out of water.

I had to put aside [my] feelings of inadequacy in order to remain the best teacher I can be in the classroom and remain the face of the school. Having a mentor and going through therapy helped me understand that everybody goes through this at some point, and I am no different in seeking help.”

One of the challenges Brewer faced and overcame was learning how to navigate implicit biases that came with being CHOW’s first black woman director.

“The former owner is a white woman, so it was easy to kind of be part of a team. And when you’re a team like that, generally people only see the person they deemed to be in charge,” said Brewer. “When I took over and we invited families into the school to observe, it’s not that there was something that was said, it’s always implicit or unspoken biases that may happen. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I haven’t felt the sting of maybe they see me and this is not where they want to be.”

Always leading with positivity, Brewer hasn’t let instances like these affect her work. When necessary, she’s been willing to lead by letting families go.

“One particular family that had enrolled in the school came from out of the country, so we were basically sight unseen,” said Brewer. “When they got here, it became apparent that this is not the space they wanted it to be. 

Eventually I said this is not going to be, this is not beneficial to me and it’s not beneficial to you. I released them out of their contract with the school because what I didn’t want was this energy floating around the school because of how [they] may deem me to be or teaching [their] children.”

After years of experience at CHOW and making difficult choices, Brewer has gotten to a place where she is confident in her role as a director. 

“Getting a mentor, having therapy, and being happy from my journey has made me much, much stronger in how I am effectively moving in [my] environment and [my] space,” said Brewer. “I’m not saying that it still doesn’t come without its challenges of course, and I still [have] doubts of where I am. But I am less doubtful of what it is I know and what I do.”

One thing Brewer has no doubt on is her commitment to centering the experience of the children who come through her school around love.

“I think we as educators have to stop and take note of our own issues because we bring that into the classroom more often than not,” said Brewer. “If we stop at the door and leave whatever is behind us and know that we’re coming in for the love of giving, the love of guiding, and the love of teaching, our students would then take that energy and move it into their next phase of life.”

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Winter 2023

Tanza Terrell

Director and Educator

Roots Activity Learning Center

If there’s one word that defines Tanza Terrell, it’s “love.”


“I’m loving, I love what I do, and I’m passionate about children,” said Terrell. “I just try to have a positive outlook on life, place happiness in people, and make people smile.” 


The drive to spread happiness and make people smile is highlighted in the many hats Terrell wears. Along with being an educator and director at Roots Activity Learning Center, Terrell is also a mom, a wife, and a songstress. On top of all that, she’s also an ordained minister who will soon open her own church.


“One of the reasons why I actually wanted to pastor my own church was because I wanted [the children in my family] to be able to have a place where they can come to feel safe,” said Terrell. “To be able to express themselves in worship.”


Just like with her work in ministry, Terrell sees showing love as central to her work in early childhood education.


“I feel like in ministry your purpose is to show people how to love,” said Terrell. “I don’t really tap into so much of a person’s choice of religion, I just try to show love.


Children, they need love. Human beings need love. Children can pick up whether or not you’re loving. They can pick up whether or not you’re here to care for them. They can pick up whether or not you’re passionate about what you’re doing.”


If there’s one thing Terrell isn’t lacking, it’s passion for education. She has her aunt to thank for that.


“She was a teacher,” said Terrell. “She would always line out all these papers and I was just in awe of her checking [them] off. She would always tell me stories of her students. I would find myself always lining up my doll babies and I would care for them and teach them.”


At first Terrell wanted to be an elementary school teacher like her aunt, but after getting pregnant out of high school, she felt her dreams of college were over. Then after her sister told her about a job opening for a part-time assistant, she found Roots.


“I’m like, okay, I needed the job,” said Terrell. “ And so when I started, even [after] the first day I [thought] wow, I was really ready to come back.”


One of the things that made Terrell connect with working at Roots was the inspiration she got from the children. 

“Children are phenomenal,” said Terrell. “They’re phenomenal at handling life situations more than adults. I’ve met some children that have had some of the hardest lives, the hardest dispositions and situations, and they still come in happy. They’re still smiling. I’m watching them as they grow and how they handle things. It actually matured me.” 

Just like the children at Roots helped Terrell grow, so did the staff. 

“They said you should try to go get your CDA,” said Terrell. “They started talking to me more about how I can become more educated because it was more than just talking with the children, playing with the children. Then I started to understand them a whole lot more.” 

Continued encouragement from her colleagues led Terrell to pursue a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education. While she started thinking she’d take the typical four years, things took longer than expected. 

“That did not happen in the time it was supposed to,” said Terrell. “Having children, oh my goodness. And then math was the worst. I had to retake math over and over again. I finally got it in 2018.” 

Although it took a while, Terrell kept pursuing her Bachelor’s because she knew she needed it to get where she wanted to go.

“It opened up doors,” said Terrell. “One, for me to be more knowledgeable. I did get a higher payscale, which was a blessing. And then I was able to have my own classroom, and so it gave me more responsibility.” 

Now in her first year as a director at Roots, Terrell certainly has more responsibility. Along with administrative work recruiting and dealing with finances, she still works in the classroom too. While the workload is heavier, she won’t be giving it up anytime soon. That’s even with her new church opening soon. 

“I cannot stop working with children,” said Terrell. “That would just be the wrong thing to do, especially in a time and place of growth where I’m moving forward in ministry. I couldn’t stop because I would need to be able to continue to show love. 

I want to tap into feeding the hungry, providing materials and things for families, and outreaches for children. The ministry is not to have a place just to be in leadership but to be able to provide for families.”


Spring 2022

Dominique Foster

Prek-K Teacher

Blow Pierce Elementary School, Friendship Public Charter School

2022 DC Teacher of the Year

Education is in Dominique Foster’s blood. Along with being a pastor, her father was an educator. Before him, her grandmother was an educator and principal. While Foster didn’t necessarily see herself following in their footsteps, she’s also not surprised she ended up in early childhood education.

“School has always been a wonderful place and safe space for me, so it’s not shocking that I landed here,” said Foster.

What was a shock though was being named the 2022 DC Teacher of the Year after 14 years in the field.

“For many early childhood teachers, we can often feel overlooked,” said Foster. “It was truly an honor just to be recognized. It has allowed me to amplify and elevate my voice. To speak up for not just early childhood teachers, but all teachers during such a challenging few years in education.”

As an early educator, one of the challenges Foster has faced is shifting the mindset of parents and caregivers on what effective early childhood education looks like. For example, rather than sending home the often requested work packet, Foster prefers sending home a bag of resources like loose parts, materials to paint, and hands-on activities. This often leads to questions about what to do with the supplies, which Foster uses as an opportunity for dialogue.

“I always like to listen and make sure that parents’ voices are respected,” said Foster. “I also try to share my knowledge on what I feel are the best ways to learn and best practices for young children.”

While virtual learning brought on a unique set of challenges for early educators, Foster made it into a win.

“Going into the 2021 school year, at that point we knew we were going to be virtual for at least a while,” said Foster. “[I went in thinking] we’re going to make this work. We started with 19 children, and we finished the year with 19 children still logging in, still excited, still learning and growing.”

Part of Foster’s success with virtual learning was using the bags she sent home as a way to create equitable spaces.

“You’re not just looking around your house for a pencil or a notepad,” said Foster. “Everybody has them. They’re the same colors, they’re the same designs, on top of all the other hands-on resources and STEM activities.”

Foster also credits her success to her student’s parents and caregivers.

“A large part of it was due to the caregivers really just supporting and trusting me,” said Foster. “After a while, I received so many messages saying “We’re so upset. We’re going to miss today’s class. We have a doctor’s appointment.””

As far as Foster is concerned, her students' skills weren’t affected by virtual learning. Still, she doesn’t see it as a replacement for the social and emotional benefits gained by being in the classroom.

“I’m very intentional in creating a very exciting classroom environment and making sure it really is that Third Teacher,” said Foster. “One of the things we do in our classroom is create opportunities for the children to offer love, offer support, and offer knowledge to others within our community.”

While Foster has completely pivoted back to teaching in the classroom, she hasn’t forgotten lessons learned while teaching online.

“I learned that I needed to invest more in my self-care,” said Foster. “Being at home allowed more time to take care of myself and enjoy time with my daughter. I just didn’t realize how little time I was leaving for me until we were locked in our homes.

It felt good, and I have come out of this being more intentional in taking time for myself and being okay with that.”

Armed with a rejuvenated mindset, Foster is more determined than ever to continue creating safe spaces for the children she teaches.

“My dream and wish for young children is that they come into these classrooms and into these learning spaces, whether it be in-person, virtual, or anywhere else, understanding that learning is, quite honestly, limitless.”

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Winter 2022

Kamren Rollins

Chief Operating Officer

Sunshine Early Learning Center


National Black Child Development Institute Policy Fellow

In the Winter 2022 edition of DCAEYC's Newsletter, Bits and Bytes, we highlighted  DCAEYC member Kamren Rollins, Chief Operating Officer of Sunshine Early Learning Center, and his experience as a fellow with the National Black Child Development Institute's Policy Fellowship Program.

Read our full profile piece on Kamren Rollins in English or in Spanish.

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November 2021

Barbara Lankster

2021 Early Educator of the Year Honoree

Senior Program Manager,

Catholic Charities Kennedy Institute CDC

Who are you? 

I am a mother, a grandmother, a friend, and a cheerleader for children and families.


What is the nature of your job? 

Currently, I am the Senior Program Manager for Catholic Charities Kennedy Institute CDC. I work closely with the Director Ms. King in the daily operation of the Center. I retired as the Center Director in 2012 due to health challenges, however, I continue to return as the opportunities arise.


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

As an undergraduate student I completed an internship teaching preschoolers’ nutrition. I realized that children were my passion and that I was good at engaging them in activities. Upon graduation I went right to work seeking positions that allowed me to use my talents working with children. Although I was shy and soft-spoken, working with children gave me a sense of peace and a curiosity that nothing else had. The more I watched children grow and flourish the more I wanted to know. This piqued my interest in children with special challenges and the idea of inclusion. There were many paths traveled but the one constant has been children and families, sharing the joys of the “first.” The first word, the first step, the realization that I can do it, the gleam in a child’s face when he is proud of the accomplishment.


Wishes for the future of children? 

I wish that children could experience the joys of childhood. The making of a mud pie, playing red light/green light in front of your house, jumping rope with friends. I wish that the powers that be would see the value of the investment in the lives of our children (our future).


What does receiving the Early Educator of the Year Award mean to you? 

This is the greatest honor I can receive. This is not only my honor but that of my parents who trained me to respect others, my family who allowed me the time to invest and my friends who supported me. One of my favorite lines says “If I can help somebody like you told me to, then my living would not be in vain.” It’s wonderful to have my flowers while I can enjoy them.


What advice would you have for someone considering becoming an early educator? 

The drive to becoming an early educator should not be just a love for children but a passion to have a positive impact on young developing minds. If we help a parent, we help a child. Children don’t come with a written set of instruction, parents often need guidance to navigate nurturing strong, confident children.

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August 2021

Regina Mack

Special Education Early Childhood Educator,

Savoy Elementary School

Who are you?

I am a career educator of 29 years. I have had the pleasure of teaching high school,  early childhood grades, and working as an elementary school librarian throughout my career. My current educator role is as a Special Education Early Childhood Educator of mixed-age 3 and 4-year-olds at Savoy Elementary School in Ward 8. In addition to being an educator,  I am the proud mother of three adult children, one of whom has followed me into the field of education as a high school math teacher in DCPS.  Lastly, I am the delighted Me-ma of two school-age grandchildren.


What is the nature of your job?

 As a special educator, I have the privilege and satisfaction of working with children with exceptional abilities. I provide one-on-one instruction to my students based on their Individual Education Plan (IEP) that outlines all the cognitive, physical, social-emotional, and academic goals that have been created for each student in my class. Besides my instructional duties, I collaborate with the classroom’s paraprofessional, ECE grade level teachers, and other related service providers that serve my students. Weekly collaboration ensures each student in my classroom has a personalized school experience that supports, encourages, and monitors their social, physical, and academic growth. As a devoted staff member, I am the moderator of the mentoring program for students in grades third through fifth.


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

One of my first jobs out of college was finding employment for vocational students with disabilities. I found great enjoyment in connecting students with real-life experiences but noticed the reluctance of employers to interact with the students confidently. Over time I helped to ease the transition into employment by encouraging positive communication between employers and employees. This work piqued my interest in special education. 

Once I entered DCPS, I was assigned as a special education teacher. However, upon arrival at my assigned school, I was informed that I would be a first-grade teacher. Since then, I have taught early childhood grades from preschool through first grade and absolutely love it.

Wishes for the future of children?

I have many wishes for the futures of children. I wish that children, especially those with disabilities, are viewed and valued as important contributing members of society. All children deserve to live in a physically and environmentally safe world. Children should never worry about a real or perceived threat of violence or injustice to their being or their family members. Lastly, I wish to eradicate childhood poverty. All children deserve to have everything they need physically, socially, and mentally to actualize their whole and happy selves.

What do you do when you’re not working? 

I take great joy in traveling this great world of ours by car, train, plane, or ship. I enjoy thrifting at local thrift stores, estate sales, and making crafts with my finds when I'm not traveling.

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June 2021

Lamont A. Turner

Lead Pre-K3 Teacher,

Broadcasters' Child Development Center

Who are you?

Who am I? This is a question that I should ask myself everyday. It's a question that helps me to evaluate my life, and what it means to me. 

I am a bi-racial male of African-American origin born and raised in Kansas City, MO. I grew up in a single-parent household, where my mother raised me and my two younger sisters. We lived in an underserved neighborhood where resources were limited and/or nonexistent. My male connections were far and inbetween. Although there were many barriers along the way, I am very proud of my cultural background and family values because it has instilled in me a spirit of gratitude and appreciation for the small things that make a big impact.

Regarding my personality, I am one person who is outspoken and likes socializing and making new personal and professional connections. That notwithstanding, I value respect and believe it is two ways. I expect that anybody I interact with should show me the same level of respect I show them irrespective of their background or status in the society.

My view of life is that all humans are equal regardless of their cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds as well as gender. This is why I pride myself on having friends whose cultural and other backgrounds are diverse. I am also liberal in that I am open to learning new things such as new cultures, religions, and even languages.

I am currently a full-time Education major at The University of the District of Columbia. 


What is the nature of your job?

 I am currently a Lead Pre-K3 Teacher at Broadcasters’ Child Development Center in Teneleytown, Washington, DC. The nature of my current role is to provide a safe and supportive learning envrionment that is student-led with high-quality pedagogy to be used with evidence-based best practices to ensure that the young children in my care receive the most out of their early childhood education experiences. I’ve been in this position for 3 years now, but I have served in the ECE field now for 10+ years.


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

I recognized earlier on in my life that I didn’t have many positive influencers who were minority and male. When I was in the 1st grade, I came in contact with my very first male teacher, Mr. Dean. He left the biggest impression on my life. He was always so supportive; I can still remember him finding unique ways to make learning hands-on and fun with his creativity. He became a solid positive male figure in my life. He would always go above and beyond to let myself and my other classmates know that we mattered and how important we were to society.  He soon became my “big brother” after leaving his classroom and would keep communication with me and my family. I am proud to say that after all of these years, I am still in contact with him today and I consider him to be one of my best mentors that I look to for sound advice. His compassion and care radiated through me all these years and I knew I wanted to be a teacher, too. It has been my interest to serve as a positive male role-model to those children without the male presence or influence in their lives and to be a compliment to the small group of male educators who currently exist.


Wishes for the future of children?

My wish for the future of children is that every child will have a passionate advocate who will promote and fight for educational equality and equip them with the necessary tools to be life-long learners and thrive within their own communities and beyond.


What do you do when you’re not working? 

When I am not working with our amazingly bright young people, I find solace in the simple things in life such as spending time with my family and friends, volunteering my time/services to upstanding community-based outreach organizations within the DMV area, and traveling both domestically and internationally.

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May 2021

Carolene E. Charles

Assistant Professor

University of the District of Columbia

Who are you?

Hello, my name is Carolene E. Charles. It is my pleasure to become acquainted with you through this fantastic forum. "Who am I?" I am a proud West-Indian American born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised by two loving and uncompromising parents, Jean Emile and Bonita Charles, in Uniondale, New York.  I am an illustrious Howard University graduate who earned a Master of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education from the "Mecca" in 1995! "HU…You Know!" I believe I carry the tradition of accomplishing incredible feats in the world that change the lives of those around me.


I am an Early Childhood Educator and Lifelong Learner who has embraced this area as "home" by working in all three school districts over the last twenty-eight (28) years. I have held several positions, including in Prince George's County Public Schools, Alexandria City Public Schools, and the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). I am now in the quest of a terminal degree in Curriculum and Instruction.  I am an Early Childhood Leader and Advocate who has used my acquired knowledge and years of experience to provide exemplary program management, deliver sound early care and education services, facilitate staff development and teacher education programming/advancement, and encourage family empowerment. I also work with the local District of Columbia-Association for the Education of Young Children (DCAEYC) and National Education Association (NEA) to effectively communicate, organize, and partner with the educators, families, and stakeholders regarding the betterment of the lives of young children. 

Lastly, I am a change agent in the field of Early Childhood Education, in the DMV community, and in the lives of young children through my deeds and actions.


What is the nature of your job?

As an Assistant Professor with the University of the District of Columbia, my knowledge and experience with the University and its students have served as an asset to the partnership associated with being a part of the Associate in Arts in the Education Programs. I diligently instruct undergraduate Early Childhood degree candidates on the most current evidence-based best practices in Early Childhood Education.  It is with great enthusiasm, I continue to invest in this opportunity to continue to grow while working at the University with remarkable and diverse students.


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

As a high school senior, I enrolled in a Home Economics Course, which asked us to design an early childhood classroom, enroll neighbor children, implement rudimentary lesson plans, and engage with parents and families of the community. This opportunity sparked a boundless interest in education that still holds true for me today. I have always enjoyed working with young children and found great joy in seeing them in their "Ah ha" moments of learning. There has been nothing more rewarding as an educator than to see my student when they have captured the essence of a lesson. The moment their contemplation turns in the instance of recognition for a concept or topic being taught. The excitement in their eyes is unforgettable. 


As I have gone through my career, my concern has not changed regarding my work in the early childhood arena. I walked in knowing that there were disparities in the educational system, and I wanted to be a part of the change that the country would embark on to address the inequities between all the peoples and families in the United States. I needed to be involved in giving those who may not have a fair chance the opportunity to get one by any means provided to me. 


Wishes for the future of children…

I wish for the presence of high-quality pedagogy to be used with evidence-based best practices to ensure young children receive the most out of their experiences in Early Childhood Education. Our early childhood landscape has to change its trajectory to safeguard our children's future to include: the promise of a safe, healthy, loving, and culturally competent environment, the open and exploratory climate of promoting cognitive development and unbridled creativity, and the mindfulness of caregiver who recognizes the importance to self-esteem, self-awareness, and self-love.


Secondly, I want to see the findings discussed in the reports written by Dr. Walter Gilliam be eradicated through initiatives put forth by NAEYC, the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), and the National Head Start Association. The reports address concerns around the Preschool to Prison Pipeline and the Preschool Expulsion among young black and brown children. There are many associations, institutions, and advocates, like Kathy Hollowell- Makle, who are working to change this narrative. I, too, walk alongside them, promoting those initiatives that address this struggle for our young children in care.


Lastly, I hope for a more progressively engaging world that allows children the freedom to work towards developing a more responsible and respectable environment. The children of tomorrow must be allowed to discover the broader complexities of the domain they live in and strive to address the concerns and issues they will face. I hope to see "thinkers who are actively engaging" in changing the biosphere and making this planet sustainable for all.


What do you do when you are not working?

After the death of my beloved mother, Bonita A. Charles, in December 2018, I started on a journey to honor my mother's life. The first step in doing so found me starting the Bonita A. Charles Nursing Scholarship Fund to help raise money for graduating seniors from the Medgar Evers College- School of Nursing Program. As a 1980 graduate of this Program, "Nurse Charles" talked about giving back to the institution. I have found this first step to have now had an unforeseen impact on the New York City Healthcare community during this tumultuous time of COVID-19 and the Pandemic. 


My mother was also a Real Estate Agent in her second life. I have become a licensed Maryland realtor in hopes of working towards "Cultivating dreams of homeownership through educational awareness, financial empowerment, and personal assurance!" I am committed to preparing my clients with the knowledge needed to successfully work through the process of homeownership, assisting with creating impressive financial portfolios, and being your most prominent advocate and "cheerleader" in this process. 

Finally, I embrace, encourage, and empower a host of "sistas" and a few brothers, (chuckles) I have come to love over the many years in the DMV area. One of the blessings of living here is the diversity of the people that introduces one to so many extraordinary cultures. My time spent here has given me a chance to embrace those working to lift up disadvantaged children in this area.

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March 2021

AQuia Bratcher

Pre-K 3 Educator

KIPP DC Public Charter School

Who are you?

I am AQuia L. Bratcher, a single mother of three black kings, a full-time pre-k 3 professional educator, and a business owner of a non-profit focused on community service. I am also a business owner of an LLC focused on event décor, planning, baking and catering, as well as, a full-time education major at the University of the District of Columbia.


What is the nature of your job?

I teach pre-k 3 with KIPP DC Public Charter School and have been in the classroom for three years. 


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

Education has always been my passion, as I have been in the educational career field since 2016, where kids are my joy and assisting in educating them is my duty. I am a strong believer in it taking a village to raise a child, and I am certain to do my due diligence in order to touch as many children and families, as possible. 


Wishes for the future of children…

The late, great Whitney Houston stated that children are the future, and if we teach them well, they can lead the way. She was true to state that children have much beauty, and we, as  educators, yet alone, members of the community have a duty to equip our children with the confidence, strength and tools they need in order to thrive and live to their fullest potential. I have dedicated my life to being a life-long learner, and it is through this dedication that I will be able to sharpen my craft to best benefit the children that I serve. 


What do you do when you are not working?

When I am not in the classroom you can find me crafting, planning and decorating events, customizing items, baking, catering, hosting make-shift karaoke nights with my babies, trying to dance, or watching my best friends The Golden Girls on television.

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February 2021

Erin Iesha Roxborough

Owner and Home Based Early Educator

Ms. Rox's Child Care

Who are you?

Erin Iesha Roxborough.


What is the nature of your job?

I’m a licensed child care provider and a proud previous DCPS teacher. I've so enjoyed teaching in the DMV. I’ve taught for 20 years in a few DC charter and public schools. I’ve worked as a Dean of Students at Anacostia HS as well. I’ve also taught for a short while at a private school in Baltimore.


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

My mom is a retired 40 year neonatal nurse from Children’s Hospital and she told me one day that she wanted to work with babies again. She said, “Why don’t you open that child care you’ve been talking about for years, sweetie?  You’re already an educator, I’ll help you with the babies!” 

As I’ve always listened to my mama, I decided to take a hiatus and move ahead with the licensing process through OSSE with her blessing. Here we are 2 years later. 


Wishes for the future of children?

It is so critical that we love and teach our young people. With the inception of this pandemic it is so important that we, as adults, practice self care, but that we not forget about “our children.” They suffer the most!!! They feed off of our energy. It has always been my passion to work with young people. Apparently, they’re just getting younger and younger by the jobs!!! (I’m kidding)


What do you do when you’re not working?

I love spending quality time with my mama and my twin teenage daughters, Alanna and Arianna Winfield,  as well as my “grand kitties”... our two cats, Sunny and Stormi.


January 2021

Buen Abo

Education Program Specialist

Office of the State Superintendent of Education,

Division of Early Learning

Who are you?

I am a father of three boys. I completed my post graduate degree in Supervision and Administration in Early Childhood Education. I am currently working on my PhD in Education. My previous professional work and experience revolved around creating a safe, healthy learning environment among children. In 2011, I became a Child Development Associate (CDA) instructor. Previously I served as a director of a child care program in the District. Now I serve as an education program specialist at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) Division of Early Learning (DEL).


What is the nature of your job?

OSSE is the state education agency for the District of Columbia charged with raising the quality of education for all DC residents. I support the agency’s initiatives and help oversee the implementation of Capital Quality, the District’s quality rating and improvement system (QRIS).


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

Early care and education is more than just preparation for primary school. It is about developing and supporting the whole child though building a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and well-being. There is a huge opportunity to nurture young children into caring, capable and responsible future citizens.


Wishes for the future of children?

My wish for all children regardless of their background is that they receive high-quality preparation to succeed in school and in life.


What do you do when you’re not working?

Outside of work, I enjoy hiking; playing volleyball, table tennis, and badminton; and spending time with family.

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December 2020

Shayna Cook

Senior Manager of Early Learning Systems

Bainum Family Foundation

Who are you? 

My name is Shayna Cook. I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio. I have lived in the District of Columbia for about 15 years. I started my career teaching pre-K, Head Start, and third grade.   


What is the nature of your job? 

In my current role as the Senior Manager of Early Learning Systems at the Bainum Family Foundation, I have the opportunity to direct funding and resources to support children, families, and educators in the early childhood education field. To this end, I work in close partnership with the District of Columbia Association for the Education of Young Children.


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

In high school, I volunteered at a Head Start program in East Cleveland. My passion for early childhood education deepened during my time working with children, families, and educators. Through that experience and the many others that followed, I developed an unwavering belief in the life-changing power of high-quality early childhood education.

Wishes for the future of children...

My wish is for all children to grow up in a safe and loving environment, where they can share their unique gifts with the world. In our country, I hope that we can reach the day where all children are valued by society, and families have universal access to high-quality early childhood programs and wraparound supports, starting at birth. 


What do you do when you are not working?

When I am not working, I am mostly reading and writing papers to complete my doctoral degree in education. If I am not doing schoolwork, I enjoy baking and watching true crime TV.


October 2020

Jolleen Tran

DCAEYC Treasurer 2017-2020

Kindergarten Teacher, Charles Barrett Elementary

Who are you?

I am an event planner turned educator and lifelong advocate for early childhood education.


What is the nature of your job?

During the day, I am a kindergarten teacher at a CETA (Changing Education Through the Arts) school where I incorporate all art forms into my teaching. We sing, dance, draw, and do a lot of movement during the day! I nurture, support, and teach my students to advocate for themselves and become independent. My role as a kindergarten teacher is to help my students love learning and to stay curious and excited about the world around them. 


In the evening, I am the Treasurer of the DCAEYC board. After three years of service, my term is ending. My experience on the board has been impactful to my growth in the field of education. As the financial officer of the organization, I was in charge of maintaining the financial records, creating the annual budget, and reviewing financial policies and procedures. 


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

I'm a career switcher because I find early childhood education so meaningful for children. It is a child’s first impression of school and so many foundational lessons are learned during this time. I also noticed a lack of equity in early childhood education which is fundamental for future learning. Not all children are given access to a quality experience and many families are not informed of the wonderful resources that can shape and support young children. As an early childhood educator and member of the DCAEYC board, I will continue to be persistent and communicative in supporting children and their families.


Wishes for the future of children...

My wish is that all children, regardless of their socio-economic status, are given a high-quality learning experience where they are nurtured, loved, and provided opportunities that spark their creativity and love of learning.


What do you do when you are not working?

During these times, we all have to be creative on what we're allowed to do outside of work. Because of this, I have picked up some new hobbies like painting and baking! I also love to run, read books, and spend a lot of time spoiling my niece. 


September 2020

Sally D'Italia

Director, Arnold & Porter Children's Center

President, SarEmi Education Consultants

Co-Chair, DC Directors Exchange

Who Are You?

My name is Sally D’Italia, and for over 30 years I have been an enthusiastic leader and advocate in the field of early learning and administration. I am currently the Director of Arnold & Porter Children’s Center and president of SarEmi Education Consultants, as well as the co-chair of the DC Directors Exchange. I hold a BS in Psychology, a MA in Early Childhood Administration and a Credential in Supporting Early Social and Emotional Development from the University of Minnesota, Center for Early Education and Development. The focus of the credential is supporting infant mental health through trauma informed practice and reflective supervision.


What is the nature of your job?

In addition to operating a NAEYC accredited early learning program for 28 years, my work involves supporting families and staff. As a visionary leader and advocate for quality and access to quality early learning, I have been active in the Washington, DC early learning community, serving many roles on committees such as the School Readiness Stakeholders Panel, the DC Commission on Early Childhood Teacher Compensation, the Program Quality subcommittee of the State Early Childhood Development Coordinating Council, and the Low Income Investment Fund Advisory Committee.


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

My first job after undergraduate school was as a toddler teacher. My intent, at the time, was to attend graduate school to earn my Elementary Education teacher certification. I did attend graduate school up to the point of student teaching, when I realized my heart belonged to early learning.


The scope of growth and development during a child’s first five years of life is amazing! To me, I was seeing what I’d read about in my undergraduate studies come to life. And recognizing the importance of supporting this growth and development because it is the foundation of all later development and learning, I knew that I needed to be a part of this.


And this was also around the same time that my advocacy drive was born. At this same teaching job, I was earning $6 an hour with no benefits. Through my advocacy efforts at this school, by the time I left after eight years, all teachers were earning good salaries and we had benefits.


What is your wish for the future of children?

My wish for all children is that they have access to high-quality early learning programs regardless of where they live and their socio-economic status. And as an advocate, I will continue to work towards this with all of my energy, vision, and drive.


What do you do when you’re not working?

One of my passions is writing. I’ve written two children’s books, “If this Buggy Could Talk” and "What Would You Do With a Soccer Ball on Your Shoe?” I’m also an avid traveler and foodie.

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August 2020

Professor Florence Baby Koroma

Dean, Bishop John Collins Teachers’ College

Stella Maris Polytechnic University

Monrovia, Liberia

Who are you?

I am Florence Baby Koroma, Dean, Bishop John Collins Teachers’ College, the College of Education at Stella Maris Polytechnic University, a Catholic University in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa. I am married with five children, three boys and two girls.  I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church and Chairman of the Higher Education Consortium for Early Childhood Education in Liberia. I am a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and of the District of Columbia affiliate (DCAEYC). 


My first NAEYC conference was in November of 2013 while participating in an international Study Tour to New York and Washington, DC.  Since that time, I have attended the Professional Development Institute and two additional national conferences.  At the 2019 NAEYC conference, I had the opportunity to make a presentation in collaboration with the Honorable Felicia Sackey Doe-Sumah who is the Assistant Minister for Basic through Secondary Education in the National Liberian Ministry of Education.


What is the nature of your job?

As Dean of the College of Education,  I perform several tasks:  (1) Development of Policies and ensure  implementation; (2) Design  programs and activities of the college; (3) Recruit students, faculty and teaching staff for the demonstration school; (4) Teach early childhood  and other education  courses; (5) Monitor and supervise students and staff; (6) Evaluate student teachers and college faculty performance; (7) Conduct guidance and counseling services for students and teachers; (8) Conduct professional development workshops for faculty; (9) Review curriculum and current programs; (10) Responsible for the preparation of schedules and teaching faculty assignments; (11) Evaluate and Improve on  teaching methods; (12) Prepare periodic reports for the Board of Governors; and, (13) Network with other Educational institutions and stakeholders. 


What interest/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

I am passionate about children. This passion for children started when I was younger. This is magic! A big one too! When my mother gave birth, that was a mystery to me seeing the child developing and growing. My mother would answer so many whys about the baby.  I took care of my little siblings like they were mine. This passion led me to the profession that I find myself engaged in today. Seeing the children grow and develop to older children was magic and a miracle. Oh, their smell, is special. I love it.  


I see something new every day as I watch the children, changing.  First, they are wrapped up, next sitting down, crawling, cooing, standing up with support, taking the first steps. I become proud of their efforts. 


Wishes for the future of children...

Sincerely, my wishes are that the governments recognize the existence and importance of these generations of people and provide them with the right environment where they can thrive. Government should institute good policies for them, allot more funds in the budget. Initiate decisions that will eradicate the ills in society.  I pray that the parents show more love, care, give them quality time, educate them, show them respect, make them healthy, happy and they must have confident in themselves. 

The teachers should ensure the right environment where they can thrive, explore, and pursue goals. We all together must provide a pleasant experience for our children so that they can fulfill their lives dream.


What do you do when you are not working?

I am actually "working" when I am not working. I review my day's work, I research what is new about children, especially now with COVID-19. Before the COVID-19, I visited the homes of children with disabilities on weekends and conducted counseling services in my community.  On Sundays, I teach the children life skills lessons at my church, and complete house chores or business of the day.  Additionally, I take exercise, respond to emails and other messages and check on family members, friends, and relatives.

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June 2020

Jamal Berry

Deputy Director, Educare DC

President, DC Head Start Association

Who are you?
I am a man, a husband, a father, and a leader.

What is the nature of your job?
At Educare DC, I oversee programs and partnerships with other organizations that serve young children.
Our mission is to serve low income families with children ages birth to 5. Ultimately our measure of
success is to lessen the achievement gap for our children in addition to connecting families to resources
that they need for raising children. Basically that means that I comb through every detail of what it takes
to not only develop programs and partnerships that serve to meet health and educational needs of
young children, but I also spend a lot of time thinking of ways to build strong families and strong
programs that serve them.

What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?
I have always enjoyed caring for and teaching young children. Initially I was drawn to the field of early
childhood education because I knew that I could make a difference in the lives of young boys and girls.
Over the years, I have been drawn to the potential of the field. I have worked alongside countless early
childhood educators who are effective in helping small children develop skills that are the foundation for
lifelong learning. I believe that our field is beginning to earn the professional respect that it deserves,
and I am drawn to helping us achieve the recognition as some of the best and most important educators
in the world.

Wishes for the future of children...
My hope for future children is that they all have fair and equal access to early learning experience. It is
important for me that others recognize that families from all walks of life love their children. However,
some families need support helping their young children get a head start on learning. It is my wish that
equality in education begins at birth.

What do you do when you are not working?
I am a family man. I love spending time with my wife and children. I have a newfound interest in growing
my own food and I’ve got a set of golf clubs in my garage that I am looking forward to learning to use. I
enjoy traveling and playing cards with my friends. Also, I like to spend time fraternizing with my
fraternities and reading leadership and motivational books.

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May 2020

Berna Artis

Head of School, School of Friends

DCAEYC thanks Berna Artis for her four years of service on the DCAEYC board. We appreciate her for all she's done in forging a path for growth, and look forward to continue working with her as a DCAEYC member.

Who are you?

I am the Head of School for Friends, a preschool in Dupont Circle. I have been dedicated to the field of education for more than 20 years, having held various roles and taught middle and high school students prior to my work in early childhood education. I have been involved in various volunteer work, such as serving on the DCAEYC Board from 2016 to 2020, providing professional development trainings at conferences, and being part of various work groups focusing on equity, diversity, and high-quality practices in early childhood education for all children. I believe in lifelong learning and in cherishing each other’s experiences.


What is the nature of your job?

I lead a dedicated team of 17 professionals in my school serving a highly diverse group of families and their children, with a focus on empathy, non-violence, diversity, and community.


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

All children need and deserve a good start in life and educators play a critical role in this. Supporting other professionals, families, and providing the best experiences for children is every educator's responsibility.


Wishes for the future of children...

A child's success and prosperity should not be limited to where they were born or what kind of resources and privileges they did or did not have. Children are the architects of future generations and they deserve an equal opportunity in life.


What do you do when you are not working?

I cherish being with my family, enjoy reading all sorts of books, playing word games, volunteering and advocating for children, families, and educators. As a life-long learner, education is a huge part of my life and it is a way of living.


April 2020

Sarah Massie

Early Childhood Grade Level Chair and Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Plummer Elementary School

My name is Sarah Massie, and I am a DCPS early childhood teacher-leader proudly serving the Mary H. Plummer Elementary School community.


I discovered my passion for working with young children in high school. In the summer I worked as a child-care employee for my local Department of Recreation and Parks summer camps. Throughout college, I took every opportunity I could to learn and grow as a novice educator. This included working as a substitute teacher for the entire four years of my bachelor's degree.


When I graduated from Frostburg State University in Maryland jobs for teachers were not easy to find. Initially, I did a lot of substituting, as did many of my peers. This experience truly prepared me for my first teaching job. I officially began my career as a self-contained special education public preschool teacher in Maryland. Those first few years I had the privilege to learn from so many different teachers and special education service providers who are masters of their craft. That experience further fueled my passion to serve our youngest learners and their families. My early teaching experiences taught me the true value of building relationships with students, families, and school stakeholders. Shortly before I left Maryland I was a recipient of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Special Education Award of Excellence for my work with the children and families in the district.


I came into DCPS as a Capital Commitment Fellow, and for the past six years I have had the privilege to work at Plummer Elementary. During my time in DCPS, I have had the unique opportunity to engage in many leadership roles while still remaining a full-time classroom teacher. Within my school community, I serve as the ECE Grade Level Chair, ECE LEAP Leader and I am actively involved in the Academic Leadership Team. I also serve as a DCPS Teacher Selection Ambassador and ECED Professional Development Presenter. In 2017, I was asked to serve on the team that developed the 2019 DC Early Learning Standards for Science and Engineering. In 2018, I was recognized as an OSSE Master Science Teacher for Early Childhood. Most recently I have been a professional development presenter at the OSSE Early Childhood Summit, the OSSE STEM Summit, the Early Educators Leadership Conference, and the National Science Teachers Association Conferences. All of these experiences have provided me with the opportunity to grow in my teaching practice which now spans over 10 years in early learning. More importantly, the experiences have given me the chance to connect with and learn from other passionate educators. The most important role I hold is serving as an early childhood public school teacher here in the District of Columbia. I love being in the classroom and I believe that it is truly a privilege to serve DC families.


Currently, amid this pandemic, I am working to be as responsive and accessible as possible to all of the stakeholders in our school community. In these uncertain times, for me, it is the relationships I have built within the walls of our school that are seeing me through. It's the phone calls and text messages from coworkers, the video chats with students and emails from their parents, and yes, it's even our thread on Microsoft Teams entitled 'Plummer Joy'. Those small moments put a smile on my face and reaffirm my long-held belief that positive relationships are one of the necessary keys to high-quality education. As we continue to navigate this unprecedented crisis my hope is that every child and family living through this pandemic, especially here in DC, feels connected and supported by their school and teachers.


March 2020

Alexandra Cady

Program Manager, Trust for Learning

What is the nature of your job?

Trust for Learning is a funder collaborative working to measurably advance equity in early learning, making sure that our country’s most underserved children experience the highest quality traditions available — what we call “Ideal Learning.” To achieve this, we engage in and support efforts around: 1) movement building, 2) expanding Head Start, 3) shaping policy, 4) improving practice, and 5) creating more inclusive Ideal Learning teacher pathways.


As Program Manager, I organize, coordinate, and enhance the quality of new and existing projects and policy-related initiatives. A large part of my work includes overseeing half of our grant-funded projects. In this role, I assist grantees in achieving their goals by serving as a thought partner to flesh out and enhance proposals, providing technical assistance throughout the duration of the grant, and implementing strategies for building on the project after its completion. I am also deeply involved in strengthening and implementing the Trust’s diversity, equity, and inclusion work, focusing on conducting internal evaluations and hosting public webinars.


What interests/concerns drew you to early childhood work?

I began my work in education focused on higher education. While higher education can be hugely important to career advancement and success, it is out of reach for too many children who have been underserved by the education system their whole lives. I quickly realized I wanted to work in early education with younger children helping ensure that every child receives a high-quality education that enables them to thrive and meet their potential, whether that includes enrolling in higher education or not.


I was drawn to early childhood work because it impacts every child and because of its great potential to improve equity in our country. Especially given today’s divided, angry political climate and the current inequities and injustices in our existing systems, a highly personalized, developmentally appropriate, and joyful early education experience for every child could create a brighter, more compassionate future.


Wishes for the future of children...

My wish for the future of children is that every child experiences an early childhood education that makes them feel loved and supported, piques their curiosity, and expands their horizons.


What do you do when you are not working?

Outside of work, I enjoy traveling, going to concerts, and running. Currently, I’m in the midst of planning my wedding!

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