by Margaret Tate
Stepping off the elevator onto the floor where the Department of Early Childhood Education conducts many of its Best Practices training sessions, you might at first wonder if you are in the right place. Is that the B-52’s “Love Shack” you hear?
Yes, it is. That’s just one of the many tunes facilitators might use throughout the day to keep the atmosphere lively as they lead Georgia Pre-K and daycare teachers from one hands-on activity to the next.
But just as it is for children, what looks like play is actually serious business – learning. The overall goal is to ensure that early childhood education in Georgia goes well beyond compliance to quality.
Since 1996, the COE’s Best Practices Initiative, sponsored by the state of Georgia’s Bright from the Start program, has secured more than $20 million in funding to design and deliver mandatory training modules to approximately 8,000 lead and assistant teachers a year – in effect touching the lives of more than 80,000 children statewide.
In addition to conducting sessions at Georgia State, trainers travel several days a week, blanketing metro Atlanta and hitting all corners of the state, carting hundreds of boxes of materials and logging thousands of miles over the course of a training season.
Best Practices Director Sherry Howard, who leads a full-time staff of 22, says the program is continually evolving to stay current – not just with the most recent research and field-tested methods, but with technology.
“When we first started it was mainly workshops,” she said, “and we still do that.”
But now, she adds, the program supplements face-to-face training with videos, podcasts and online courses that reinforce lessons with assignments and an assessment component. “It’s really seen more as professional development for the teachers now,” Howard says.
For Best Practices trainer Maria Samot, there’s an “exponential benefit” to getting teachers together for training. “It’s really gratifying when teachers – and we get this quite a lot – e-mail us stories and pictures of things they’ve learned in training that they’ve implemented in their classrooms and how they might not have thought of this particular idea if they had not come to see training,” she said. “That’s fabulous to see.”
This story was originally published in the Spring 2011 issue of the College of Education's Milestones magazine.