For more than one month now, we have had to adjust to a new way of working. This temporary “new normal” has brought many challenges. But it also has provided us with wonderful opportunities to connect with our families in new and innovative ways.
One of our new innovations was inspired by our Chief Executive Officer, Maria Garza. She envisioned an ECMHSP Learning Channel on YouTube. Her vision was brought to life by Christine Alvarado, Consuellis Hawkins-Crudup and education teams throughout our project. Our Technology Solutions team has gone above and beyond in making sure our YouTube channel is constantly updated.
The first two teachers to post videos to our YouTube channel were Leannys Mendoza at the Okeechobee II Center and Maria Guerra at the Myakka Center. We recently had a chance to catch up with them regarding their experience teaching at East Coast Migrant Head Start Project and adjusting to the new way of connecting with children and families.
Leannys, can you share information about your background?
I was born in Venezuela and have been living in the United States for three years. My professional background is in business administration. I also have a master’s degree in human resources. Upon arriving in the United States, I did not speak any English, so I enrolled for ESOL classes for a year.
This is Leannys first season working at the ECMHSP Okeechobee II Center.
How did you learn about ECMHSP?
My friend was a former teacher at the Okeechobee II Center. In September of last year, she told me about an opportunity to join East Coast Migrant Head Start Project as a Bus Monitor. I decided to apply for the position and work my way up. Within a month, I was asked to train to become an Assistant Teacher for the preschool classroom. I was told I had been observed while helping in the classrooms and they liked how I interacted with the children.
How was this new experience been for you?
The first thing I thought was how will I do this? I was asked to record the first video the same day. My two kids have become my video production assistants at home. Since these videos were for children, I felt freer to express myself and be more playful. My goal is to try and get the kids to connect with me through technology. I have recorded more than 10 videos now.
Leannys created a small recording studio at home.
What do you miss the most about being at the center?
I really miss the 20 children in my preschool classroom. We become very close in the classroom. As teachers, we look forward to seeing the progress they make every day. Children always tell you how they feel. During my weekly calls with parents, I had a parent who told me their child got so emotional that they started crying when they saw me in the first video. The child asked to replay my video 10 times! This kind of reaction makes me work with more dedication. Another parent shared that her child finished learning the ABC song at home. It was rewarding to find out this was made possible through the repetitive views of the video I recorded.
What message would you like to leave our parents?
I would like parents to understand that even though our centers are currently closed, the learning continues. It’s crucial they continue to engage their children as they complete the educational activities we’re providing. We are working very hard to create videos for our YouTube channel. Each video is interactive and closely follows our creative curriculum. As teachers, we continue to measure each child’s progress, even though they are unable to step into our traditional classrooms.
This is Maria Guerra’s first season teaching at the ECMHSP Myakka Center. She shares what this experience has meant for her professional experience.
Celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday at the ECMHSP Myakka Center!
What is your background?
Between my experience in Venezuela and the United States, I have been working in education for the past 20 years. My experience ranges from early childhood education all the way to being a university professor. I have a master’s degree in university education. I can honestly tell you that out of all the grade levels I have taught, early childhood education is where I would like to stay. Being a preschool teacher is a big satisfaction. I have the opportunity of shaping the life of a young child. I teach a child that he or she can create whatever they want to.
The children at Myakka receive a special visit from the Sheriff.
How did you start your career with ECMHSP?
In Bradenton, Florida, I ran into an old friend that I know from Guayana, Venezuela and she mentioned there were available positions at this organization. Based on my professional background, she encouraged me to apply. I applied, went through the round of interviews and got accepted to work as a Preschool Teacher at the Myakka Head Start Center.
How was your experience shifting your lessons from the classroom to remote learning?
It’s been a great experience. Our Early Childhood Education Coordinator called a meeting to inform us we would implement YouTube videos as part of the curriculum to help parents with distance learning. I love doing the YouTube videos. I have received lots of positive feedback from our parents. One parent told me her child greatly missed her teachers, so I encouraged her to show every video to her child. At least once a week, I send out the links to remind parents that this resource is available. A child excitedly said, “My teacher is on YouTube.” Every time there’s a new video, I communicate with parents. I know this allows the kids to feel closer to us. Through these videos, we can reinforce learning. Out of the 14 children in my classroom, nine of them will be transitioning to kindergarten. I know parents are working hard to get their educational activities completed. I tell our parents it’s important for them to follow through, so the children have a smooth transition.
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