Emily Gawlick-Mlieczko, Executive Director of Early Childhood Educators of BC (ECEBC), was a recent emergency hire in Langara’s Early Childhood Education Program.
Finding Inspiration When You Didn’t Know You Were Looking for It
The most amazing thing happened to me this past summer, something that confirmed the career choice I made. Don’t get me wrong—I am continually in awe and inspired by the people I meet daily through my work with ECEBC. But this was different, something I needed and I didn’t even realize it at the time.
This past summer I was hired by Langara College to teach two courses and supervise practicums. Talk about being thrown out of my comfort zone! I am used to being the student, not the instructor, and there were so many new things to learn: creating lesson plans, lectures, and assignments; meeting new colleagues; and remembering all the new student names. It honestly felt like the first week of September in child care with all the new faces and anticipation.
Very quickly it became evident that this opportunity was a gift, an inspiration. It had been so long since I had been able to tap into discussions about the practice of early childhood education at such a deep level (with the exception of the ECE geek dinners I have with some close friends in Victoria). Since becoming the executive director of ECEBC, the opportunity to engage with the practice of early education has not been the same as when I was an early childhood educator myself. As executive director I am involved in high-level policy research and speaking on behalf of early childhood educators rather than working directly with children and families, which is something I thought I would always be doing. Truth be told, sometimes I would feel wounded that I might only be seen in this one role, as I have identified for so long as an educator.
So as soon as I entered that first day of classes, I was amazed. The conversations were inspiring, with the students engaging in some very difficult topics. They spoke from the heart, and their curiosity was uplifting. I was able to witness them learning new skills, applying them, and then reflecting. We talked about our values and beliefs and how ethics guide our practice. The students were open to being challenged and to challenge me back. I felt as we were on the journey of learning and reflection together.
This experience afforded me the luxury of visiting many child care centres in the Lower Mainland that I had not before. All had their own unique philosophy and energy.
During this process it was surprising how so many real-life experiences with children and families came flooding back. Those times were some of the best ever as I learned so much from the families and I grew in my practice through the guidance of my co-workers. The families taught me how to be a true advocate for children.
Other inspiration came to me from the support I received from my team of ECEBC staff and board of directors. They would ask many questions about the topics the class was discussing, and they would give me additional insight. At home, my life became even busier, as I still maintained the full-time position at ECEBC. My son Alex, daughter-in-law Amanda, and son James were extremely helpful with D2L, uploading documents and assignments. They helped me stay organized. No small feat if you know me at all.
The energy and fresh perspectives reminded me of the importance of having a strong and highly educated profession and post-secondary education system for ECE that is supported both at an institution level and government-policy level.
I will be forever grateful for this opportunity that the Langara College faculty gave me. I was welcomed into their family and culture; they included me in rich conversations, shared their knowledge, and gave me guidance and support.
This experience reaffirmed that no matter what role I take on, I always will be an early childhood educator. Thanks for the inspiration—I needed it.
Emily Gawlick-Mlieczko is the Executive Director of ECEBC
This article was originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of The Early Childhood Educator, ECEBC’s journal.