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Following a Passion to Teach

As part of the curriculum provided through the Early Childhood Leadership Fellowship, each Class of 2023 Fellow met with LORE Storytelling and worked on their personal narratives explaining their passion for early childhood advocacy. We are proud to publish the stories of several of the Fellows who shared their personal stories during their recent graduation.

By Sherrie Bair, Paraprofessional, Dayton Public Schools Class of 2023 Early Childhood Leadership Fellowship

As a paraprofessional in a special education preschool classroom, I am an assistant preschool teacher. For other paras, that could mean that they assist with students on buses or they could be a one-on-one para for a student who may need that level of care, among many other roles within the district. I have only been in this role for about six years because I went back to school later in life. I have an associate's degree in early childhood education. My family thinks I am crazy. They told me that I could make more money in literally any other field than being a preschool teacher. However, I am passionate about early childhood education. I love to read and I love to share that love of reading with my students, so I am passionate about early childhood literacy. Now, through my experiences working in a low-income school district, I am passionate about advocating for the students and families that I serve because they deserve better.

Watch Sherrie tell her story at the Early Childhood Leadership Fellowship Graduation.

I am going to tell you about a little boy that I will call Lucas. Lucas was a four-year-old in our classroom. He was smart, funny, eager to learn and participate, and loved to be helpful. He would always clean up after himself after meals and would clean up after his classmates if they had not done so. Lucas also loved playing in block area. He would go over to pretend play to get a hard hat and a safety vest before he went over to the block area to do his building. He would also sometimes take materials from the block area to the doll house to pretend that he was building and repairing things over there.


Lucas was also on an IEP, a legal document that states the goals that we are to be working on with the child, in addition to many other things. We are legally required by law to provide the things listed in an IEP. He received speech therapy services and occupational therapy services through his IEP. Although Lucas did not have an official diagnosis, we knew that there was some sort of disconnect between his brain and being able to verbalize what he wanted to say. He knew exactly what he wanted to say, he just could not say it. As a result, we would often have some minor behavioral issues with him. He would cry and start stomping his feet. If it escalated, he would throw himself on the ground, kicking and crying. Or sometimes he would start knocking things off of shelves or dumping things. However, he did find ways to communicate things that he wanted with us. For example, when we went outside and he wanted a bike, he would crouch down like he was sitting on a bike and hold his hands up like he was holding the handlebars. He would then twist one of his wrists like he was revving the engine. That was our favorite one. So, this got me thinking that maybe we could teach him some signs and then get him and his mom into some sign language classes. Then he could learn to communicate in this way. We soon learned, however, that the dexterity in his fingers would not allow him to do many of the signs that we were trying to teach him.


My next question was whether or not he had a Go Talk listed in his IEP. A Go Talk is a device that has pictures and symbols on it. Lucas would learn what the pictures and symbols mean and then he could push a button that would say a word for him. While he had this device listed in his IEP, we did not have enough speech therapists on staff to train him.


This was a pivotal moment for me. I thought to myself, I can become jaded and just accept that this is the way things are, or I can do something. For a while, I did not know what that looked like. Until I saw the application for the Groundwork Ohio Early Childhood Leadership Fellowship. Here was a way that I can be a voice for not only Lucas, but every other child in our district who was not receiving what they need to be successful throughout their school careers. The Ohio Early Childhood Dashboard tells us that Ohio children are starting behind and staying behind in school readiness and academic achievement:

  • 62.1% of our kindergarteners are not demonstrating readiness for kindergarten,

  • 63.9% of our 4th graders are not demonstrating proficiency in reading, and

  • 62% of our 8th graders are not demonstrating proficiency in math.


These numbers are unacceptable. What we teach in preschool matters. It lays a strong foundation for them to build on throughout their school careers. Our children deserve the funding, staffing, and resources they need to succeed throughout their school careers.

Thanks to Sherrie for sharing her story and being a strong voice for children throughout Ohio!


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