2020: A Year of Education Challenges and Triumphs

Early Childhood Education
Professional Development Organization at PASSHE

Director Jennifer L. Pyles, Ph.D. (at right)
Assistant Director Elizabeth (Liz) Knouse, MA (at left)

Undoubtedly, 2020 is a year to remember. While the challenges associated with COVID-19 have been dauntingly unprecedented, the pandemic also brought out the best in us as educators, childcare providers, students, and community partners. It sharped both our vision and our resolve.

Removing the often prohibitive expense, time, and geographic barriers that tether us to unrelenting budgets, schedules, and proximity to physical locations, the PDO and remote learning have enabled hundreds of students across 18 partner schools to afford, access, and advance their education and career pathways around work, family, and other obligations. The result is a new pipeline of credentialed teachers for the early childhood field.
Even with the stressors of COVID-19, economic concerns, and job insecurities, students’ resolve and commitment speaks to their professionalism and love for their work. We celebrate them and their triumphs every day. We are proud of our collective lean-forward efforts that enable us to celebrate the successful accomplishments of so many who ran the distance through some challenging times. And there’s so much more to come, including our 2021 efforts to power up the PDO Apprenticeship Program (stay tuned)!

The ultimate winners are the thousands of children in our charge during their formative years.
We encourage you to check out the “Year 1 ECE PDO Pathways” graphic that shows the many milestones we reached in the PDO’s first full year of service.

To childcare workers – Don’t miss this fabulous opportunity to expand your career!

To partner educators – Join us in this partnership to advance professional pathways.

To anyone considering this opportunity – Explore this website and see what other student-childcare workers are saying about their experience with the PDO!

Meet Amber Barkman

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].

ECE PDO Professional Development Coordinator Spotlight: Karen Lindbergh

I CAN, SO I SHOULD. This has been the lifelong motto of ECE PDO Professional Development Coordinator Karen Lindbergh. A single mother of four grown children, Karen knows personally about the struggles associated with balancing family needs, work demands, and advancing her own education. Motivated by faith, family, a strong work ethic, and a can-do spirit, Karen understands firsthand the value of early childhood education and the importance of gaining credentials to increase both career- and income-earning opportunities.

A long-time champion of young children, including those with special needs, Karen works tirelessly to encourage early childcare workers to take advantage of PDO-sponsored education. “This PDO-funded educational experience will develop students’ understanding of how children learn,” she says, noting that everyone wins.

A proponent of apprenticeship opportunities that include mentoring by masters, Karen believes early childhood apprenticeships are opportunities to both expand knowledge and develop collaborative skills needed to enhance lives. Apprenticeships are opportunities to cultivate more successful futures, where student-workers flourish and pass along a love of learning and apply their skills to benefit young children.”

Recently, Karen helped a 74 year-old student enroll in her first Child Development Associate credential (CDA) course, demonstrating that education has no age limitations. Contact her at: [email protected]