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Early childhood education program develops leaders in the field

Hannah Sharpe is part of the first cohort of the Early Childhood Emerging Leaders program at Boise State. Sharpe is the Children’s Services Coordinator for Head Start in Twin Falls.

Research shows that children who receive quality early childhood education, often referred to as preschool, do better on standardized tests and are more likely to graduate high school and to attend college – all standards that must be raised to boost educational outcomes and reach goals set forth by Idaho Governor Brad Little. To help meet this need, the Early Childhood Emerging Leaders program in the College of Education is developing leaders in the field to positively impact Idaho’s youngest learners.

Program coursework incorporates best practices for students to design action research to support learners and implement solutions in the programs where they work, along with earning a master of education in early childhood and special education.

Hannah Sharpe, current student in the first cohort of the program and children’s services coordinator for the Head Start program at the College of Southern Idaho, says her experience in the program allows her to apply what she learns directly to her work – for example, building a better and more inclusive outdoor play space for all children attending preschool there.

Students in the program are mentored through leadership exercises, including opportunities to advocate for early childhood education. Sharpe and her cohort met with legislators in 2022 to discuss early childhood education needs in the state.

“We’re in a critical place for early education in Idaho,” Sharpe said. “Support for early education is still in the growing phases. In the Emerging Leaders program, we’re learning how to be advocates for early childhood, including being able to meet with legislators to talk about topics in early childhood education and explain why these issues are important.”

Deb Carter, professor in early and special education, said she is consistently impressed by the ideas the students in the program bring, the relationships they are forming in the community and their confidence in advocating for children and families.

“The emerging leaders we have the pleasure of working with in the program fill me with both inspiration and hope for the impact they will have on early childhood care and education in the state,” Carter said.

Emerging Leaders students are admitted with full-tuition scholarships through the IdahoSTARS child care resource program. This partnership with Boise State allows professionals in an often low-paying career to attain graduate education and pay it forward through mentoring other professionals in their workplaces.

“The Emerging Leaders program sprung from a growing need to support and develop new leaders in our early childhood care and education field,” said Erin McCandless, director of academic and professional certifications for the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children and IdahoSTARS. “It has been a pleasure to observe the growth of the students progressing through the program at Boise State and we know this investment will have a positive impact on educators, children and the entire early childhood education community in Idaho.”

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