Strengthening Early Childhood Education in Arizona

Author: Helios Education Foundation

November 23, 2018

The early years of a child’s life lay the foundation for lifelong success.  With a strong and healthy beginning, children are more likely to graduate from high school, pursue postsecondary education and successfully transition to adulthood.  Ensuring Arizona children have access to high-quality early learning experiences not only helps prepare individuals for success but also helps strengthens communities.

To increase the quality of early childhood education in Arizona, Helios recently partnered with Southwest Human Development to develop a brand new Professional Development Institute for early childhood educators at Educare Arizona. 

The Professional Development Institute is Arizona’s leading early learning professional workforce development initiative. It is working to improve early childhood education teacher quality and practice, which will lead to better classroom experiences for children and ultimately help ensure our state’s youngest children are prepared for kindergarten and beyond. 

““The Professional Development Institute is game-changing for early education in our state,” said Dr. Karen Ortiz, Vice President of Early Grade Success Initiatives at Helios Education Foundation. “The opportunity to provide valuable resources and support so that early childhood educators can improve their classroom practice will help ensure more children enter school ready to succeed and are on track to read at grade level by the end of third grade.”

The Professional Development Institute brings all of the components needed for high-quality early childhood education professional development to one place. It also provides a living laboratory that includes direct observation of high-quality teaching practices, hands-on learning for teachers, and ongoing ECE practice-embedded research studies.

“Our goal is to radiate high-quality professional development to the early childhood workforce in Arizona,” said Ginger Ward, CEO, Southwest Human Development.  “We will leverage, collaborate and coordinate current professional development activities so that we can share best practices and integrate them into our work.”   

The Professional Development Institute has the potential to impact more than 7,000 early education professionals who impact more than 450,000 children annually. 

One unique aspect of the Professional Development Institute is its focus on increasing access to high-quality professional development through the innovative use of distance learning technology.  This will allow the Professional Development Institute to ensure rural educators have the same access to the support and resources that urban and local educators have.  In addition, there is a specific focus to recruit educators at child care centers with a high percentage of low-income families and children. 

The Professional Development Institute has also developed a partnership with the Lastinger Center at the University of Florida.  The Lastinger Center houses Early Learning Florida which is a research-based, practical, and engaging vehicle for cost-effectively improving practice and supporting children’s learning and development.  The Lastinger Center has a curriculum of high-quality, interactive courses to help build the skills of professionals working with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. 

Pictured above (L to R):  Dr. Mary Kay Rodgers, Lastinger Center for Learning; Dr. Karen Ortiz, Helios Education Foundation; Mindy Zapata, Southwest Human Development; Ginger Ward, Southwest Human Development.


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