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Through the eyes of an early childhood educator: Mrs. Carolyn Shields

Olivia Olaes

Anchor Contributor

The Cooperative Preschool is an early childhood educational facility that assists students, faculty and staff with their child care needs. At an almost free rate, students who are parents are able to continue their education. Rhode Island College is a unique school that serves several parts of the community. For “traditional” college students, adult learners or professional development, RIC is the place to go. Housing an exceptional amount of support and resources, we can sincerely thank Mrs. Carolyn Shields for the years of dedication she gave RIC’s smallest students and their parents.

Rhode Island College’s Cooperative Preschool program is officially closing. In the absence of the justification for funding from Student Community Government, the Co-Op is forced to shut down. However, I intend to say farewell with the highlights of this organization’s impact by reflecting on the interview conducted with Shields.

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Upon walking through the door, it looks as if it is a child's dreamland. With artwork of the students hanging proudly, educational tools at every station and an open and encouraging learning environment, you can not help but feel uplifted. Once you have the pleasure of meeting Shields, there is an instant realization that the classroom is a reflection of her high-spirited personality and passion for education. Her values are shared as she accepts every child, adult and in-between as their unique selves. She has the strengths of connectedness and empathy, allowing her to make an impactful, yet subtle leader. 

She is a patient, attentive and compassionate teacher. Watching her instruct children, it is clear she understands that play is learning and preschool is not just child care. It is a few of the most influential years a child’s subconscious and physical body is developing. As children master motor skills and kindergarten readiness, Shields assures the foundation of development is nurtured. That development is social and emotional. “If social-emotional behavior is not addressed,  it does not help children foster independence. Giving answers doesn’t let them grow; guiding them and having them figure it out as they go, being in the moment all of the time is what allows growth,” states Shields. 

To be an early childhood educator is to be the one doing it all. In Shields’s case, she balances teaching college aged students, conducting parent engagement, assisting student-parents and educating preschoolers. The best part is, she loves doing it. In every area of her responsibilities and her assists of her own taking, she supports all members of the Co-Op flawlessly. She is accepting of everyone, promotes inclusion, diversity and the education of every child. Shields knows that this level of education develops a child’s personality, social interactions and communication styles subconsciously and consciously. 

We sincerely thank Shields on behalf of her students and the college-aged students surrounding them, and we appreciate her for being a wonderful example. Watching a teacher light up by a simple interaction with a child, turning it into a teachable moment reminds us how we all got to where we are. Although the preschool will no longer be a part of the community, there are so many who benefited from this program, in big and small ways. 


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