Low wages, isolation, lack of support and/or respect, burnout, high levels of responsibility.
These are some of the issues faced by Early Childhood Educators (ECE) and prompted researchers at Thompson Rivers University to initiate the Peer Mentoring Project for Early Childhood Educators in B.C.
Norma Stokes, operator of Norma’s Ark Playday Centre in Telkwa, participated in the project as a facilitator.
“If nothing else gets through this, is for us to be able to share this with the government, and say this is important,” Stokes said in a project video.
“It’s an important field, we need early childhood educators and we need to be valued for the work we do.”
Aside from creating a provincial lobby for the profession, the project branched out into 17 local mentoring groups vpairing more experienced ECEs with less experienced ones or those just beginning.
With help from a Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation grant, a Bulkley Valley group has been meeting (mostly virtually) since last summer.
Juliane Rouder, an ECE student, was asked to coordinate the group and said it has made her feel understood and connected.
“I’m one of these people that left the field, but I came back,” she said. “What I have learned now, what I see, is a community support group, yes, to inspire other people to get back into the field and to put more knowledge out in general and also about the challenges we have.”
Rouder worked in the field for six years before having children of her own and said when she left the field it was because she was just overwhelmed by it.
“I have met now so many more ECEs now and I feel that I’m in the centre of it and I feel way more motivated and also much smarter about this than I was years ago,” she said.
Nina Hamelin, an experienced ECE who currently works as a support worker for School District 54 and is Rouder’s mentor, has also gotten a lot out of the group.
“It’s helpful to keep the moral spirits up and a safe place to talk to the ever-changing situations in the individual environments and come up with solutions because sometimes it takes a few heads together to figure out something you might not have thought about before,” she said.
Both Hamelin and Rouder hope the local group will continue to thrive and grow, but are also optimistic the project will serve a greater purpose.
“It would be nice to unite the field, rather than be so segregated, because its in the unity that we’re going to have a voice,” Hamelin said.