Teacher Appreciation Week takes place every year during the first full week in May. The National Education Association explains that it is a time for “honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives.” One group of educators that is often overlooked when we use the term “teachers” is Early Childhood Educators. Our Early ChildhoodEducators at the U-M Children’s Centers support the learning and development of children from 3 months to 5 years of age.
With many inequities being highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the inequity in recognition and support of our Early Childhood Educators in this country is more apparent than ever. Across the country, Early Childhood Educators have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic so that essential employees (especially women) can keep our country running. While there has been debate about whether it is safe or fair to ask teachers to return to teaching amidst a pandemic, our teachers at the U-M Children’s Centers have been going to work since July 2020, without a vaccine until very recently, and on far less wages than a public school teacher.
Our teachers set aside their own fear and anxiety to provide supportive and loving care for the young children who are also living through this collective trauma. Our teachers try to forget about the virus ravaging our communities as they change diapers, wipe noses, and give the biggest, warmest hugs you could imagine. Our teachers have seamlessly transitioned into countless new and ever-changing protocols, while still executing meaningful and engaging learning experiences for our youngest citizens. Our teachers, who are in the midst of caring for their own children or elderly family members, still have space to uphold the anxious and fearful parents of our community. Our U-M Children’s Centers teachers, with their commitment and compassion, have helped to Make Blue Go throughout this pandemic.
As they continue to support the healthy growth and development of our youngest citizens and future Wolverines, our Early Childhood Educators will have a tremendous impact on the long-term outcomes of this pandemic.