New York Works for Children is New York’s integrated professional development system for the early childhood and school age workforce. In 2010, New York Works for Children was founded by the Early Childhood Advisory Council’s Workforce Development Workgroup to support early childhood and school age professionals. The New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute coordinates New York Works for Children and manages the day to day operations. With funding and support from multiple city and state agencies, New York Works for Children is committed to building the infrastructure so that everyone who works with young children and families has access to high quality education and professional development experiences. New York Works for Children is also the home of The Aspire Registry: New York's Registry for Early Childhood Professionals. Louisa Higgins is the Director of New York Works for Children. We asked Louisa to share some of her reflections about her work with us.
What is your current role? In your own words, how would you describe the work you do?
I’m the Director of New York Works for Children, the state’s early childhood workforce development system. I get to work with stakeholders from across the state to help build the infrastructure so that all early childhood providers have access to high quality preparation, professional development, and support.
Who do you work most closely with at the Institute? What outside partners/organizations do you work with?
I am lucky to work with almost every other initiative at the Institute. A big part of the work we do is the administration of The Aspire Registry, our state’s early childhood workforce registry. Our registry is open to anyone who works with young children in New York and includes family child care providers, teachers, center directors, and trainers and coaches. Many of our colleagues at the Institute are members of The Aspire Registry and use resources like our statewide training calendar! We work with QUALITYstarsNY to track qualifications and professional development for staff in participating programs. Our colleagues at the Career Development Services Center provide career supports to some members of The Aspire Registry, such as keeping track of study plans. Additionally, information about New York Works for Children and The Aspire Registry has been integrated into the curriculum of the CDA and CPAC courses offered in partnership with the CUNY School of Professional Studies.
Outside of the Institute, we partner with anyone who is interested in improving education opportunities for early childhood providers. We are lucky to have funding and support from a variety of state and city agencies. We also work closely with the New York State Association for the Education of Young Children, the New York State Early Childhood Advisory Council, and various workgroups of the Early Childhood Advisory Council.
What motivated you to work in the early childhood field?
From an early age, I knew I wanted to work with and on behalf of young children. I entered the early childhood field wanting to do social justice work. The early years have such a significant impact on life outcomes, and I believe that the work we do at the Institute is really about giving more children positive experiences in their childhood and ultimately, better opportunities in life. This is what brings me joy in my work. The awareness that we are building systems and creating infrastructure so that more children have exactly what they deserve- especially those that have the most stacked up against them.
If you could learn a new skill today, what would it be?
There are so many things on my “to learn” list, a wide range of skills from infant massage to interior design. If I had to pick one today, I would chose metal soldering! I used to make jewelry as a hobby, and I never learned to solder. I have a feeling melting metal with a blowtorch is pretty satisfying.
If you had one piece of advice for a new early childhood teacher, what would it be?
I often think about what I would say to my 24 year old self in my first year of teaching Head Start. I’d start with, “You’re doing a fantastic job.” That is probably the first thing I would say to any new teacher. It’s something I think teachers of young children don’t hear nearly as often as they should, and I also believe it is true. If you are committed to your work and you are respectful of children and their families, you are likely doing a great job. I’d also make sure every early childhood professional in New York- new or veteran!- had a copy of the Core Body of Knowledge. It is a tremendous resource for anyone who wants to reflect on his/her practice and start to think about opportunities to grow in his/her craft.