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AMBER BARKMAN knows how challenging access to a variety of services can be in the rural region where she lives and works. As a Career Coach and ECE Professional Development Coordinator in the Early Learning Resource Center that services seven largely rural counties in PDO Northwestern Region 6, Amber knows the value of access to quality early childhood education, broadband service, and good-paying jobs.

Starting as a quality coach who travelled to childcare centers to evaluate and help teachers improve their skills (as many do not have credentials or degrees), Amber became an ECE Professional Development Coordinator in July of this year. “It seemed like an ideal fit for me,” she says, as her bachelor’s degree is in early childhood education and her master’s degree is in English as a second language. The latter degree helped her to bridge multicultural families when she taught in a Pre-K Counts program following her 2013 college graduation.

A proven cheerleader for the PDO program and what it can offer to student-workers and in turn, the children for whom they care, Amber has actively recruited students into CDA and other credit-bearing coursework; she increased her fall recruits from 10 to 30 who are scheduled for spring courses.

“We have a lot of family childcare providers in our region and I work to recruit them,” Amber remarks. Childcare center directors are pleased both they and their staff are pursuing professional development funded by the PDO.

Her secret sauce seems to be working, as Diane Hoffman, a center director in the region (and PDO-sponsored student) applauds Amber’s efforts. “PDO funding will enable me to offer a higher quality of care to the children in my facility. Thank you, Amber, for all your help and thank you to the PDO for this opportunity.” Reach Amber at [email protected].