Spotlight Interview With Linda Feller Program Coordinator at Cole-Harrington
Linda Feller has a variety of work experience in the early education field. Currently, she is the Program Coordinator at Cole-Harrington Children’s Center in Canton. One of my colleagues, Denise Galford-Koeppel recently worked with Linda Feller and Cole-Harrington and was impressed by Linda Feller and the entire program and helped connect us. This led to a written interview with Linda Feller where she gave interesting responses to questions related to both her experiences in the field and challenges and opportunities in the field of early education. You can read the interview below:
1. Can you describe what experiences you have working in early childhood education and care?
I started my career in IA, where I’m originally from. I worked in a preschool special needs class there and also worked in a residential program for children with severe special needs. When I came to MA. I was hired as a lead teacher for a program in Dorchester. I worked there for two years and then interviewed at the Cole-Harrington Children’s Center in Canton. I was initially hired as a lead preschool teacher and special needs consultant. After being in this role for three years I became the Program Coordinator. I have been a coordinator for thirty-two years. Cole-Harrington also allowed me to take on various responsibilities within the agency. Over the years I have provided consultation to our center base programs, served as a family/child advocate for special needs services, provided in-service trainings and workshops to our family childcare system and to local colleges, and served on various boards in the early childhood community.
2. Can you talk about the philosophy and goals of Cole-Harrington Children’s Center?
Our primary goal at Cole-Harrington is to facilitate the development of school competence in children. We look at the whole child and all areas of development. We want children to actively engage in our environment. We want our environment to provide lots of opportunities for children to make choices and initiate their learning. We want to encourage children’s curiosity, allow them to take some risks, think outside the box and problem solve. We want children to engage positively with others and have successful relationships with their peers. We want them to recognize that we are all alike and different and each individual has something positive to contribute. We want children to feel good about themselves and their accomplishments. We feel that having a positive self-concept is very important for a child’s later success in school. All of us at Cole-Harrington work diligently to build a positive relationship with each child. We feel that positive relationships with teachers and other children are crucial to the children’s social and emotional growth. Our ultimate goal is that all children will leave us with a natural curiosity and a love of learning as well as the necessary skills they need to succeed in school.
3. Are there any college courses or professional development experiences you have had that you felt were especially helpful in your career?
It’s so hard to pick because I think every course and professional development experience that I took over the years offered something that I could apply in my work. If I had to pick one, that was most influential, I would say it was the course taught by Holly Elissa Bruno a few years back titled; “What You Need to Lead”. She wrote a book on this topic as well. During the course we discussed various administration topics but most important-we discussed emotional intelligence, our ability to read people. I learned that 65% to 90 % of our emotions are communicated without a word. I walked away from that course a kinder and gentler human being. Every day I focus on building positive relationships with the children in our care, the families who put their trust in us and the staff I work with daily.
4. What is something you wish policy makers knew more about related to early childhood education and care?
I wish more policy makers knew that in order to have quality early childhood programs you need trained educated staff who are adequately paid and supported in their work. I also wish they knew how to make this happen!
5. What challenges do you think the field of early education and care has related to improving quality?
I think the biggest challenge right now is keeping early childhood educators in the field. I am witness to various staff turnovers in my own agency as well as in other programs in the state. Some programs have had to close due to the staffing crisis. I see more and more demands being placed on educators but their salaries do not reflect what they are being expected to do.
6. What makes you optimistic about the future of early education and care?
• That we are talking about quality and have defined what educators and programs need to do to get there.
• That we have long term research from various institutions that proves the need for quality in order to have positive outcomes for children.
• That we have more community involvement. Programs have more support today from their communities and lawmakers than they had twenty years ago. As we know it takes a village.