Florida Education Accelerator Changes Trajectory of 24 Early Childhood Educators’ Careers

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The Facts

mindSpark Learning organized and hosted a five-month Education Accelerator (EA) with 24 preschool and daycare providers in Dunnellon, a small community in Marion County, Florida. The all-female cohort ranged from commercial facility owners to in-home daycare providers. The EA was customized for the Dunnellon community as an innovation program designed to support these women in solving their biggest problem of practice by investing in their schools’ cultures, and further developing their leadership skills.

This extraordinary group worked through a variety of innovation cycles to determine the best possible solutions for their challenges. In doing so, they were vulnerable to new techniques and worked out of their comfort zone. They challenged themselves personally and professionally, reflecting on their core beliefs and keeping their love of teaching their students as their motivation.

The Methods

The cohort divided into teams by preschool or daycare and set out to explore their problems of practice. Once these were identified, each group created business models to address improvements and ways to better respond to student needs. They created websites, designed business cards and took the lessons learned from professional learning trainings to establish best practices for the organizations.  

mindSpark Learning worked with Marion County to develop industry partners to present at the EA’s monthly sessions for professional engagement and skills development. Delivering Happiness (Zappos), Lockheed Martin, Duke Energy and the Marion County Literacy Council provided these engagements and trainings, in addition to project feedback and resources.

The Solutions

Teams presented their capstone projects at the end of the EA in June, 2018. Presentations outlined the ways in which their solutions can 1) create a professional learning opportunity for other educators in similar positions and 2) provide evidence of change in their schools through evaluations.

As projects came to fruition with support from the community, industry partners and mindSpark Learning, the women saw amazing changes:

  • They grew more confident in their career paths and teaching abilities

  • Increased instructional practices in math, language arts, engineering and science

  • Developed stronger executive presence and communication

  • Built stronger relationships with parents and students

Real-world Results

To close out the Dunnellon EA, each participant shared a growth presentation to demonstrate what they’d learned. One woman, a native Spanish speaker, gave her presentation completely in English. She commended the project for impacting her professionally, as well as improving her proficiency in English.

Rather than seeing themselves as “just a preschool teacher or daycare provider,”  their perspective shifted. They embraced their role as the foundation for making each student a lover of learning.

The results speak for themselves - Dunnellon’s EA changed the trajectory of these participants’ lives:

  • Many are seeking higher education degrees to better prepare them to grow their businesses and support their students

  • Two women are dedicated to starting their own daycare center, with a play-based approach to STEM topics

  • Evaluations following the EA found that center leaders are better listeners and more attentive to staff needs

The cohort gained a learning network, community connections and a tribe that is dedicated to supporting its members well after this EA.

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