In recent weeks, Groundwork Ohio has published a “Get to Know Groundwork” series, spotlighting members of our amazing team! This week, we’re getting to know Beth Hess, Director of Groundwork Ohio's Center for Early Learning. Beth joined Groundwork Ohio in June 2022.
Beth Hess is the Director of the Center for Early Learning at Groundwork Ohio. As Director of the Center for Early Learning, Beth leads the Center’s work to build and transform systems that advance early learning, promote equity, and prioritize prevention through policy development, research, and collaboration. As part of her work, Beth will focus on securing and sustaining quality leadership in early childhood systems development, stakeholder engagement, the centering of family and early childhood professional voices, strategic communications, data analysis and research.
Prior to joining Groundwork Ohio, Beth oversaw the immense growth of the state’s birth-grade 12 literacy policy and program portfolio at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). During her seven years at ODE, she served as the Third Grade Reading Guarantee Administrator, an Early Literacy Specialist, and most recently as the Assistant Director for Literacy. Beth brings to Groundwork Ohio experience as a classroom teacher, family law attorney and special education advocate. Beth holds a law degree, master’s in public policy and management, as well as a bachelor’s of arts in social and behavioral science from the Ohio State University. Check out our Q&A with Beth to learn more about why she’s a passionate advocate for young children and families in Ohio!
Q: What drew you to early childhood policy research and advocacy? Tell us more about your “why”!
A: I’ve been working with young children since I was a teenager- first babysitting, then volunteering and working at an early care and education center. I’ve always been fascinated by the rapid growth that children experience between birth and age five. Throughout my career, I’ve leaned into educational experiences and job opportunities that allow me to further understand the development of young children, impact policies that support healthy development and contribute to more children thriving and living their fullest lives. I’m also the mother of two young children, and this has heightened my drive to ensure all children in Ohio have access to quality early learning experiences.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received or a lesson that you’ve learned that has helped you in this work?
A: The best piece of advice I’ve received to help in this work is to always remember that everyone knows something and there is something to learn from everyone. Following this advice has led me to develop many trusting relationships and it even helps keep me from zoning out on long Zoom calls.
Q: Groundwork Ohio’s word for 2022 is ELEVATE. What’s your word for 2022?
A: Breathe. In these tumultuous times, we often find ourselves holding our breath. I’ve committed to reminding myself and those around me to breathe and stay centered in what matters most.
Q: When you aren’t advocating on behalf of young children and families, what do you enjoy doing?
A: I enjoy exploring all the great family friendly spaces and activities central Ohio has to offer with my husband and two children (ages 4 and 2). You can often find us at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Franklin Park Conservatory, or Highbanks Metro Park. If there are monkey bars or swings, you’ll probably see us there. I also love to eat local and give my children’s grandparents a chance for one-on-one time while enjoying the culinary treasures of Columbus.
Q: Describe a scene from your vision of the future for Ohio’s youngest children and their caregivers.
A: My daughter is having her first child and she and her partner have paid parental leave to recover and care for their baby. She has been provided guidance on how to best support the development of her baby’s brain. She has access to formula if needed. She knows that when she is ready to return to work, her child will be cared for in a safe and loving environment that provides quality care and early learning experiences. She also feels relieved that these supports aren’t a luxury but universally available to all families in her community.