I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. owner, founder, and head of schools for owns four five star Montessori Schools in Durham County. She is a pioneer in the early childhood arena and has been in this field for thirty years. Because has been able to manage four five star facilities, I wanted to hear in her own words what she felt her leadership contributed to the program’s success.
Facility spreads across acres of prime real estate in the Durham County. Three buildings are located on one campus and an additional building in another prime Durham County location. The curb appeal of the buildings is very aesthetically pleasing. Trees greenery and natural areas make the properties very warm and inviting.
On a tour of the facility before my interview, the halls of were filled with encouraging voices of teachers and the songs or squeals of active children. Each classroom appeared to be engaged in learning activities.
is the wife of a banker for 35 years. She has four children and 5 grandchildren. All of her children have obtained their BS degree in non-related fields; yet have chosen to be a part of her staff.
Below are the questions and answers obtained in the Leadership Interview.
Please identify your position and how that fits in your organization.
“My responsibility is to oversee the day-to-day operations of my facilities, and comply with the local and state regulations. I am a liaison for parents, and childcare resource agencies”. According to Ms she has to monitor personnel and operational policies; fees and wages. She also has to ensure that the children in her care have a safe and nurturing environment.
How would you describe your job to someone not in your field (i.e., outside early childhood education).
Ms stated, “As a childcare director I am a leader responsible for everything that goes on at my childcare facilities.” “I am also responsible for advocacy and community awareness as it relates to early childhood education.”
What specific tasks must you accomplish on a day-to day or week –to-week basis?
Ms. stated that her specific tasks accomplished on a daily or weekly basis are to ensure that all health and safety guidelines are followed. Also, policies are followed, required documents are completed and deadlines are met. She is also responsible for timely processing of payroll and accounts payables and receivables. These are specific tasks that must be consistently performed on a regular basis.
What are the skills that are most important to your success?
According to Ms , the skills that are most important to her success are family involvement and community awareness so that all children will have the opportunity to succeed. Ms. is the Education Chair for The . She also serves on several other boards and committees that promote childcare advocacy.
What barriers/ challenges exist that can or do affect your success?
The barriers and challenges that often affect her success is the limited funding provided by governmental agencies. There is not enough funding for all children to benefit from attending a high quality pre-school. There are not enough parents, providers, or community leaders to advocate for change as it relates to the rights of all pre – school children to receive high quality education.
What do you find most rewarding about your job? What do you find most frustrating?
It is very rewarding for Ms. to offer a child the opportunity to attend a five star pre-school program that may not have had the opportunity otherwise. Her greatest frustration is when parents don’t embrace the pre-school experience. Thus, they are not involved or interested in parent involvement or the importance of pre-school.
Please describe your leadership or other experiences that helped prepare you for this role.
Ms. has a BS degree from UNC Greensboro and is a certified Montessori Instructor. She has been a childcare provider serving Durham County for thirty years. She has seen this arena drastically change over the years. She now has four campuses that have all acquired a five star license.
How do you define leadership?
Ms. defines leadership as a person or persons being able to effectively lead a group of people in an organization. She feels that a true leader must have a passion and drive for the job in which they are leading. Leaders must be strong advocates for the success of the programs in which they lead. She also feels that someone must learn to follow before they can become a good leader.
Has your definition of leadership changed as you progressed in your career? If so, how?
“My definition of leadership has changed as I progressed in my career.” I now understand the advantages and the positive impact that high quality childcare has as it relates to the growth and development of a child. This knowledge has propelled me to advocate and lobby for the most vulnerable in our community that do not have a voice.
What would you say to an audience of aspiring early childhood education professionals? Any advice on how to best prepare for a role such as yours?
Ms. would like to convey to an audience of aspiring early childhood education professionals that her position is very rewarding. “There is no feeling like being a part of the success of a child. A strong business background is essential to carry out day-to-day functions. Her advice to those aspiring to be leaders in this field would be: In order to be successful you must have a love for children and a passion for teaching. You must also have the drive to advocate and fight for the rights of all children. Strong interpersonal skills are needed to effectively communicate with parents, various agencies, and state legislators.
Ms. conveyed that her definition of a leader is a person or persons that are able to effectively lead a group of people in an organization. In my analysis I feel that this is true however, her leadership and her works exceed far beyond those boundaries. She also stated “ it is the leader’s responsibility to motivate and build moral within the staff”. “Non effective leaders will not convince others to follow”. In my studies I have learned several new qualities of a leader. I realize that our philosophies are similar yet; I now have a much broader scope.
Advocacy and leadership are synonymous of one another. As leaders we must gain a vast knowledge of the system that shapes the policies that govern us. This insight will give us a gage as to what we need to advocate for and who we need to support for positions that influence decisions. This type of knowledge will equip us with power. If the childcare communities across the state could come together to advocate for the rights of children, we would be a powerful force. Leadership is not just a privilege but with it comes a great responsibility to equip and inspire others to accomplish the vision and goals of the organization. “Leaders should also have the ability to inspire and motivate people to act” according to the video Leadership Is.
Bringing the community together is another great quality of a leader. Ms. is on several boards and committees in the community that promote quality care for the at risk youth. She also sponsors a large workshop every year at North Carolina Central University (in conjunction with The ; she is the Education Chair) in support of early childhood education and advocacy. Ms Bryson has a strong background in community leadership. She has sacrificed her time and talents to organize workshops, seminars, forums, etc. to stress the urgent need of high quality childcare in her community.
She is very visible in the community promoting carnivals, field trips, and parent information sessions to engage the parents. She provides needed resources to parents for everything from Welcome Baby (a non profit which provides car seats, pampers, baby clothing, etc.). To Angel Food Providers (non profit which provides food free of charge). There are many more organizations within her network that help families with young children endure hard times with a little more ease.
Ms. is also considered a Conceptual Leader. She discovers innovative ways to plan events to enlighten the community on the importance of high quality childcare. She sponsored a fundraiser to have a huge carnival for the children in the community. The free food fun and games led the families to the carnival. However, the parents were encouraged to join Ms at the legislator’s office to advocate on the behalf of Early Childhood Education. 5 of 19 parents joined Ms. to speak with Representatives Larry Hall and Mickey Michaux of the NC Senate.
I would also consider Ms Bryson an Advocacy Leader. I have joined her on personal trips as well as organized trips (with a large group organized by a referral agency) to speak with legislator’s to expand high quality childcare in Durham County. She has sponsored meetings with childcare agencies to discuss the mismanagement of funds allocated for childcare. Her topic gained the attention from the community because there was local newspaper and television coverage. Ms. Bryson also ran for the office of School Board, which she came in a close second place to the incumbent candidate.
Ms also displays remarkable administrative leadership skills. She handles all the necessary administrative tasks for her organization to run efficiently. However, I have learned in my studies that there is a difference between management and leadership. Management in an early childhood environment includes collecting fees, managing the facility, and dealing with personnel issues. Leadership involves setting the vision for the program, promoting staff development, and advocating for high quality programs. As leaders, we should strive to improve and transform the current system into high quality programs for all children.
Ms. is also a Pedagogical Leader. Her program uses the Montessori and Creative Curriculums. Both curriculums support the growth and development of the children in which they serve. These are research-based curriculums and the Creative Curriculum is the required curriculum for the NC Pre- K Program. Ms. program serves both NC Pre-K and Early Head Start children. Both programs require family involvement, and home visits. The teachers, staff, and families work closely together for the benefit of the children.
Ms. believes that we should acknowledge and reward our teachers, parents, and children for outstanding accomplishments and achievements. She is a leader that leads by example. Ms. mission is to produce other leaders that have a passion for promoting high quality childcare.
In my reflections Ms. is the epitome of a great leader, mentor, and advocate for early childhood education.
The Re-Imagine Leadership video exhibits some of the qualities that I observed in . Ms conveyed to me that leadership was instilled in her as a child. Her mother was very politically active in the 60’s and 70’s years of segregation in Greensboro, NC. Being a civil rights leader during this era in the south was a daunting experience. Ms. learned at an early age how to be a leader and stand up for your beliefs. However, she did convey that at times she questioned her leadership capabilities. She also questioned if she could be an effective leader based on the leadership status of her mother (which was a single widowed mother of nine children).
I also think that the decision made by her children to help their mother build her business stems from being raised in a close family unit. They believe in their mother’s dream and have chosen to use their education and experience to help elevate their mother’s business to the next level. I believe that you can find great employees to follow and support you in business. However, family members take ownership and will usually have the same drive, love, and passion for the business as the owner (I have found this to be true in my personal experience).
Ms. explained how her children were reluctant in taking on leadership roles within her company. I relate this to the teachings in the Re-Imagine video. The video posed the question what prevents you from thinking of yourself as a leader? Her children believe that culturally older and more experienced people hold leadership positions. As the video states this can be somewhat intimidating. However, they were exposed to leaders and advocates as young children. Thus, it did not take long for them to embrace the responsibility. All of her children now uphold their leadership positions with knowledge and confidence (after shadowing and mentoring their mom).
In conclusion Ms. has been a catalyst for change in early childhood education. She is an active advocate that desires diversity and an equal high quality childhood experience for all children. She is willing to take risks and believes that advocacy leads to change.
Compassion critical thinking and courage are the characteristics of a good leader according to video two Compassion, Critical Thinking. Ms. is the epitome of a great leader that is leaving a legacy for her children and her children’s children to carry on.
Courtney from Study Moose
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