Monday, May 27, 2024

Alumni Spotlight with Hilary Bartlett

Where and when were you born?

I was born here in St. John’s on January 16, 1988, but my family moved to Fortune when I was an infant after my dad accepted a teaching position at Lake Academy! Growing up in Fortune was a privilege – I enjoyed having the ocean in my backyard and the walking distance to “the woods” to play, even as a young child. My family moved back to St. John’s when I was 11 and I’ve lived here ever since.

What is your current job and list some things you like about it?

I am currently the Project Manager for the Early Childhood Educators Human Resources Council (ECEHRC), a not-for-profit organization focused on strengthening the early learning and child care (ELCC) workforce in Newfoundland and Labrador. Since taking on this position a little over a year ago, I’ve learned so much from the members of the ECEHRC, volunteers from various ELCC perspectives, on the history of early learning and child care in our province. The widely held understanding that early childhood educators (ECEs) are simply ‘babysitters’ is far from the truth! We are an educated and committed group of professionals who use our knowledge of child development, psychology, and behaviour guidance strategies (to name a few) to inclusively support all children. Children will play no matter what play options are available. ECEs have the education to be able to provide play options that are designed to support each specific child’s developmental needs at that time. Thoughtfully organized classroom environments are integral to children being able to learn through play in a focused way. Too many toys? Less learning. Too few toys? Less learning. Developmentally inappropriate toys? Less learning. There is a ‘Goldilocks’ type balance that ECEs need to achieve when organizing their classrooms – this balance is determined based on not only the ages of the group but also the individual needs of the children in the group. From physical development to emotional regulation, ECEs observe each child to determine what can best support their learning. During my five-and-a-half years working as a Frontline ECE at CNA’s Children’s Centre, a position I only left June of this year, I was able to practise all of this and more with a team of ECEs equally dedicated to supporting children’s learning and development.

How does it relate to your diploma or certificate?

My current role as Project Manager would not have been possible without completing my Early Childhood Education diploma at CNA, nor without my time working as a Frontline ECE at CNA’s Children’s Centre. The ECEHRC was committed to having a qualified ECE in the role of Project Manager to ensure that the important work that they do was being supported by someone who had worked in the ELCC sector. There are a lot of misconceptions about ECEs and knowing the role and responsibilities of early childhood educators, having been educated as one myself, has been vital to my position with the ECEHRC. 

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your lifetime?

I think that this is a very tricky question to answer. Qualifying one thing as more difficult than another is so subjective because something that would’ve been difficult at one point in my life would perhaps not qualify as difficult at a later point when I have more life experience to adjust my perspective. An overriding difficulty in my life that I believe I will continue to encounter would be when I am confronted with an experience that requires me to adjust my expectations of myself and of others.

What’s your favourite movie or book?

My favourite book is a specific translation of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky). This is my favourite book because of how Tolstoy explores the complexity of the human experience. The characters in the novel explore their own moral dilemmas and day-to-day struggles in a way that prompts examining your own actions and values. The perspectives of each character are often contradictory and it allows you to pause and realise that individual experiences impact everyone’s outlook and attitudes. Despite the fact that this novel takes place in 19th Century Russia, Tolstoy manages to capture multi-dimensional human perspective in a way that resonates outside of time.

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

My career path is not what I had originally intended. I started the ECE program at CNA with the intention of working frontline to gain experience before opening up my own family child care centre, sometimes colloquially referred to as a ‘dayhome’ or ‘at home daycare.’ I absolutely love watching children learn and supporting them as they navigate the world around them. I planned to operate this for many years, with the hope of one day far in the future landing a position as an ECE instructor or within an ELCC organization to help support the sector. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to take on the position of Project Manager of the ECEHRC at this early point in my career. I resigned from CNA’s Children’s Centre only last month (having stayed on as a substitute ECE over the last year while in my new position) and I already miss the children! I am so proud to be part of the ECEHRC. So far we have launched our ELCC resource-based website (www.ecehrc.ca) and we are currently in the midst of a publicity campaign focused on educating the province on the roles and responsibilities of early childhood educators. We need more ECEs in our province, and in our country, and if we can adjust the misconconceptions of what ECEs are, we can encourage more people to choose ECE programs, like the ones at CNA, to strengthen the ELCC workforce. 

What challenges did you face in launching your career?

Becoming an ECE currently guarantees you a career. The ELCC workforce is crying out for additional qualified ECEs to support the many, many families across the province (and the country) who currently cannot access early learning environments for their children. I was hired as an ECE not long after graduating from the ECE diploma program at CNA. In my role as Project Manager of the ECEHRC, I work to strengthen the ELCC workforce. There is a lot to be done to ensure the our province has the qualified ELCC workforce that it needs to expand the early learning spaces that are currently available and the ECEHRC has launched our ‘You see/We see’ campaign to support this work. (www.ecehrc.ca/become-an-ece) This campaign focuses on seeing children at play through the lens of an ECE, and how that differs from what many people’s expectations are of the profession.

What advice would you give to your CNA first-year self?

My advice to my CNA first-year self would be to continue expanding your knowledge of the sector and of the members of the ELCC workforce. From the classmates who graduated with me, to my ECE co-workers at CNA’s Children’s Centre, and to each and every individual within the ELCC workforce – making connections with the professionals who are so dedicated to supporting children and helping them learn is so integral to becoming a part of the unified ECE voice. Collaborating with my fellow ECEs is how I can best support them within my current role!

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1 COMMENT

  1. The ECEHR Council welcomed Hilary to the position as Project Manager just over a year ago. In this short time, she has created a network of communication and collaboration within and outside the ELCC sector. Hilary has become a dedicated professional who promotes the value of early childhood education and the importance of this work for the children and families. She builds collegial relationships amongst ECEs, continually strengthening our ELCC workforce. She is truly an emerging leader.
    Joanne Morris, Chairperson, ECEHRC

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