Hillary Roselund is the Director of National Program at Jumpstart. She supports implementation and continuous improvement of Jumpstart’s model, including training, curriculum and program development.
The relics of my former days as a pre-kindergarten teacher are stored in plastic bins in my basement. Among the hodgepodge of dusty books, tattered song charts, and faded construction paper cut-outs is one of my favorite possessions – a pink shoe box. It holds a trove of treasures: a copy of 101 Dalmatians, an owl key chain, a stuffed panda, an old chip container, an uneaten package of fruit snacks, and envelopes of notes addressed to me. I’ve carried this shoe box with me for over a decade of life moves.
The shoe box was a gift from a 4-year-old child named Diana. Diana was a shy, brown-haired girl from El Salvador who arrived in my classroom speaking almost no English and never having been in a classroom before. She cried big, woeful sobs when her mother dropped her off every morning, and was utterly overwhelmed by the loud, active play in my classroom. Yet, by the end of the spring, Diana was proudly reciting her alphabet in Circle Time, writing her name (and mine!), and volunteering to be the class line leader. While I can’t attribute Diana’s developmental leaps to my teaching alone, I am proud to say that she graduated from pre-kindergarten excited about school and ready for kindergarten.
“This is for you, Miss Roselan,” Diana said as she presented me with the pink shoe box on the last day of the school year. I was deeply touched to be entrusted with her treasures, and awed by the care she must have taken to select each item. I’ve held on to that box through the years because it’s a great reminder to me of the trust that young children put in the adults that surround them – especially their teachers. This week, April 7-11, marks the Week of the Young Child, an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to focus public attention on the early childhood years and quality early learning. It’s a time to be inspired by the young children around us and to take action on their behalf, ensuring that each and every child has a positive early experience that will set them up for success in school and in life.
Like the box in my basement, this week reminds me to celebrate the young children in my life while at the same time reminding me of my deep responsibility to them — as a mother, an educator, and a citizen. For me, this week honors both my own two young children and those in preschool and pre-kindergarten classrooms around the country. At Jumpstart, we will celebrate the Week of the Young Child through special activities with our preschool partners in order to raise awareness and call communities’ attention to the critical importance of the early childhood years. I hope that you will take time this week to think about our collective responsibility to young children and their education, especially for those children like Diana, who may need and deserve our attention the most.