We previously profiled Project Flourish, a program developed by the Family Services of Central Massachusetts. The apprenticeship program, backed with fundraising and support from Edward Street, was designed to help current and aspiring educators accomplish their career goals, earn necessary certifications, and get hands-on experience in the classroom.
One of Project Flourish’s graduates and current Leader Teacher at Pakachoag Acres Daycare in Millbury, Nicole Peterson, took the time to talk with us about her teaching journey and extremely valuable time in Project Flourish. An educator since 2019, she currently works with children ranging from 15 months to 2.9 years old.
An opportunity to grow as an educator
Project Flourish was first introduced to Peterson when her director sent an email to staff members asking if they would be interested in earning their Childhood Development Associate (CDA) credential from the Council for Professional Recognition, a great first step in building early education credentials.
Project Flourish apprenticeships are designed to help aspiring educators get the hands-on practice they needed in classrooms after a pandemic that led to staffing shortages and empty classrooms. Through the apprenticeship, educators are able to not only gain professional experience, but also learn business practices like hiring techniques and record keeping to help them establish their own childcare centers.
“Project Flourish provided me with the tools and a great teacher to help me earn my CDA. They have given me more opportunities to grow in the childcare field.” - Nicole Peterson, Project Flourish graduate.
Flourishing in the classroom
Peterson said that one of her biggest teaching inspirations was a high school teacher who acted as a support system when she needed it, “She helped me with my homework and made sure I had anything I needed for school. She helped me realize I wanted to be a teacher/caretaker.”
For Peterson, Project Flourish was an opportunity to practice teaching and showing up everyday for young children, “[Project Flourish] reminded me of my personal philosophy, which is to be a positive role model to the children in my care.”
Peterson shared that her goal is to make every child feel important, “I treat every child as if they are my own. It is very rewarding for me to know I am helping a child learn a life skill, a fine motor skill, cognitive skills, the list goes on." She added, “We have a lot of fun and make their day educational at the same time.”
Helping children grow these skills through play and learning is imperative to their development, especially at such a young age. Another important skill to teach young children is how to become independent in the classroom. Speaking about how the program impacted her teaching style, Peterson offered a key shift in her practice, “If anything, I let the kids have even more independence than I did before.”
She went on to explain that she finds herself observing how children solve problems on their own, as well as socialize and play with one another. “For example, it’s so much easier to just go over and help a child grab an item they want. What I’ve noticed in myself is that I wait and watch. Will they grab something to stand on to reach the item? Will they ask a classmate for help? Will they ask me for help?”
Plans for the future
Peterson first began her career as a nanny before transitioning into daycare. That experience allowed her to explore what kind of teacher she wanted to be, “I was able to really focus on which age group I work best with and for me that is the toddler age. Helping them learn a new skill or seeing them proud of themselves for achieving a task is the best feeling as a teacher.” She added, “It makes me want to continue in my teaching journey.”
Project Flourish helped Peterson set her sights on new aspirations.“ Not only did [Project Flourish] help me further my education, but it also helped me achieve more goals I have for myself.” She shared that her personal and professional goals include obtaining either a bachelor’s or master’s in education and eventually opening her own at-home daycare.
She shared, “I’m invested in learning and helping children grow and I feel the more knowledge I have, the better I can help and assist families.”
We agree! Congratulations Nicole on your educational achievements. Keep growing!