Azul's Story: Partnering with ECESF to grow as an ECE Professional

Early Care Educators of San Francisco (ECESF) supports early care and education teachers in developing their leadership and advocacy skills through a variety of meetings and trainings.  The ECESF Leadership program covers teachers’ costs to travel and attend ECE conferences and events.  As an ECESF Leader, Azul Muller took part in the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia, in November 2017.

Azul tells us more about why she is passionate about being an early childhood teacher and how the conference impacted her teaching…

“I have been teaching in early childhood for almost three years now. I started at an internship in southern California at Temple Beth El Child Development Center. It was a wonderful center where I learned how teachers can interact with children and families to have meaningful relationships. Then I moved to San Francisco to finish my degree, and I am now working at Felton Institute’s Family Developmental Center in the Mission. I get to work with families and children of different backgrounds, and I enjoy finding ways to support each individual family’s needs.

“I ended up in this field because of my nephew. He is on the Autism spectrum and was diagnosed at three years old. He began preschool in the local school district, and I saw the struggles my mom and my sister faced trying to get support for his needs. My nephew’s teachers, his therapist, and we as a family were not on the same page about his goals. It was very challenging for me to watch, even though I was still in high school. I asked myself, ‘Why is it so difficult?’ When I went to college, I decided to take child development classes, and I began to reflect on my own upbringing and the upbringing of my nephew. I love working with young children because I know I have the ability to make positive change in their lives.

“I want to keep learning more about how to best support the children and families that I work with, but it’s a challenge to attend professional development trainings. Professional development in early childhood education is abundant, and many organizations have trainings available. The problem is the scheduling of those trainings. Many trainings are held during weekdays when teachers are needed in the classroom. I try to attend trainings held on Saturdays when I don’t have school. At my site, we have an opportunity to attend professional development during work hours, but it is at a first come, first serve basis. Staffing becomes an issue when multiple teachers are out for development. Attending professional development in early childhood is crucial because the field is always changing with new research, information, and best practices.

“I was grateful to have the opportunity to travel to Georgia and attend my first NAEYC annual conference in November of 2017, through the ECESF Leadership program. At this conference, I had the opportunity to network and share my experience in the classroom. I learned that in the field of early childhood education, sharing what we have learned in our own classroom is a way to bring the field forward, and that we can learn from other teachers’ classroom experiences as well. I even met another teacher who lives in Atlanta, but had worked in San Francisco before with one of the same teachers that I work with now. I look forward in continuing this networking here in San Francisco, where I can attend professional learning communities to continue to learn from other teachers and share my knowledge too.

“One of my favorite sessions was called Yogapalooza, where we learned about helping kids to self-regulate in the classroom through yoga. I practice yoga and mindfulness myself, so it was wonderful to learn more about how to empower kids to take a moment for themselves when they need a break. We learned strategies to help all children be more mindful, even the kids who might not find it easy to be mindful.

“Besides the professional networking and learning, I was also excited to do some sightseeing in Georgia. It was my first time out of California, and I got to go to the Georgia Aquarium, which is the largest in the United States. I love aquariums, so it was fun to take a behind the scenes tour and see the beluga whales and the whale sharks. My trip was wonderful in so many ways, and I’m very thankful to have been able to go through the ECESF Leadership program.”