Santa Cruz COE News

Discovery. Exploration. Knowledge.

Learning to be an effective educator is a journey. Wherever you begin, there are always new paths to explore and knowledge to acquire.
-Julie Olsen Edwards

child at table with clay in handDiscovery. Exploration. Knowledge. These themes ran throughout the 2015 Central Coast Early Care and Education Conference organized by the Childhood Advisory Council. The full day of workshops helped more than 200 early education providers and Cabrillo College Early Childhood Education students continue a process of discovery along their chosen career path—caring for and educating young children.

Keynote speaker Julie Olsen Edwards spoke passionately on “Welcoming Diversity: What Does It Really Look Like?” Julie, a long-time Cabrillo faculty member and co-author of Anti-bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, explained why it is so critical that quality early environments be inclusive of children and their families. She explained that even before children have language, they believe what they see in our eyes. In the same way, children know if they are truly welcome in our early care programs when their lifestyle, cultures, families, gender and color are reflected in the environment.

The goals of an anti- bias education are:

  • Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride and positive social identities.
  • Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity, accurate language for human differences and deep, caring human connections.
  • Each child will increasingly recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness and understand that unfairness hurts.
  • Each child will demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions.

Julie encouraged early educators to have heart, courage and skills, and thanked them for “being on the job.” She stressed that anti-bias environments are critical to early education because learning happens in relationships, and the quality of that relationship is based on how young children and their families are treated. She concluded with this statement on anti-bias education: “Anything About Us. Without Us. Is Not For Us.” (This saying inspired by a phrase used by the Disability Rights movement in South Africa.)

Vision and Voice Award – Supervisor John Leopold

Because of his willingness to advocate for quality early care and education, Supervisor John Leopold received this year’s Vision and Voice Award. Supervisor Leopold was chosen because of his willingness to speak out on the plight and struggle of young children and families in our community, and because of his thorough understanding of the issues related to this field. His support as a Santa Cruz County Supervisor will allow Cabrillo Children’s Center to continue to serve the children in our county and help ECE students learn the best teaching strategies for this special population (children birth to age 5). Cabrillo Children’s Lab is our window to the world of young learners and Supervisor Leopold supports teaching others to understand how children learn.

The committee also recognized Supervisor Leopold for teaching them to be better advocates for the needs of young children and early care providers. Through his guidance, they are learning how to have a bigger voice for their work and a stronger presence in the county.

It is clear why the ECE Conference Committee selected Supervisor Leopold for this award. The Committee also welcomed him to be a lifetime honorary member in the field of early care and education because of his belief that improving the quality of early learning environments builds better communities for all of us.

Early Educator Award Maria “Cuca” Flores

Described as the kind of leader that everyone looks up to and respects, Maria Flores was honored as this year’s Early Educator. The Buena Vista Children’s Center, serving nearly 100 children each year with infants, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners, is a reflection of Cuca’s leadership and where she has put her life’s work. Maria is not only an eager learner, but quick to put what she learned into practice. The climate and culture she establishes with her staff, keeps them returning year after year, eager to be together and to serve the children at the Buena Vista Children’s Center by offering early childhood education, resources and support to the families. Maria’s interactions with families defines respect, as her office door is always open to children or families from previous years who come back to visit her because she helped them at one point in their lives.

The ECE field is very lucky to have Maria Flores represent us. She has made such a tremendous difference for thousands of children and families that will never forget her.

Thanks to the Childhood Advisory Council, COE.


Peace Library

Central Coast Association for the Education of Young Children

Childhood Advisory Council

Encompass Community Services: Child and Family Development Programs

First 5 Santa Cruz County

Go Kids Inc.

Professional Association of Childhood Education (PACE)

Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF)