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They say ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’ and that rings so true to me today as I am here to share my farewell message as the Arkansas Early Childhood Association President.

If I had known that the last two years would go by so quickly, I would have taken better notes. But since I didn’t, I’m going to spend a little time giving some thank yous and sharing some highlights. I want to start by thanking you – my colleagues across the state, for having faith in me to fulfill this position. Thank you to those who have encouraged me, supported me, and told me I could do it. I appreciate your vote of confidence. This has been one of the highlights of my career.

I want to also thank my employer, the University of Arkansas Early Care and Education Projects. Dr. Honeycutt and Dr. Pillow-Price have allowed me to serve in this capacity while still taking care of my regular duties. I also want to shout out the ECEP team. Thank you friends for being some of my biggest cheerleaders along the way.

The board of directors that I’ve served with have been phenomenal. Everything that we have asked of you guys, you have done it with a smile and we appreciate you. So many things go on behind the scenes to make things happen in this association and I appreciate all of you, as well as Paul, our executive director, and our entire AECA staff. I can’t say enough about how we have such amazing programs like T.E.A.C.H., Step Up to Wages, and Apprenticeship – elevating the voice of early childhood across the state and beyond. Thank you all for everything you do to make sure the association runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis.

Thank you to our affiliates – you, and our membership as a whole, are what I consider ‘boots on the ground’. You are keeping the community engaged and encouraging early educators and keeping our profession afloat. Thank you for everything you do. We see you and we appreciate you.

I’m so excited that over the last couple of years, we’ve finally been able to come back together. We spent a few years where we couldn’t see each other – other than on Zoom – and so we enjoyed having a couple of great conferences. Our first year, we focused on ‘BeYOUtiful’. We wanted you to be YOU – the child, be YOU – the professional, be YOU – the family, be YOU – the community. And as we talked about being effective, having equity, making sure we exhibit empathy, and more than anything we wanted to empower everyone. I felt that we all gained some knowledge and confidence along the way.

This past year we have been focusing on, ‘Learn to Play, Play to Learn’. It was a joy to go back through the child development early learning standards, as a state, focusing on each of those nine domains – reminding us of the work we do, which is play! I loved getting the videos, photos, and emails showing us all the great things that are happening across the state in our programs. I think those two conferences really felt like we are a big family and we support each other and we get together and learn how to go back and do it even better. So I want to thank you for being there at the conference, for being a part of all the different programs that happen across the state – whether that’s at the local level in our affiliates, or at the state level.

I’m leaving this association as your board president but will remain a member and an engaged person. I’m excited that Natasha Kile and our board of directors will be leading you into this next year of 2024. I’ve said a few times that I might not be the most intelligent president, I’m not the one to have a lot of knowledge about policy and procedure. But my goal has been to be the president for the people. Why is that my intention? I’ll tell you – because I got my start in early childhood education. I entered a Head Start classroom just a little bit over my two-year mark and stayed there. And I found, without a doubt, everything I needed to make me who I am even today. I found structure, stability, security, love, nourishment – everything that a child needs, I received it in an early childhood classroom. So that’s been my motivation for nearly 25 years – to make sure that I give that back to families, that I give that back to children.

And you, our association, has given me the opportunity to do that in this capacity as your board president. I want to remind you that you are beYOUtiful, and that as we are learning to play and playing to learn, we’re doing – in my opinion – the most important work that can be done in our state for our youngest citizens.

Thank you for all you do and I’ll see you on the other side in 2024. I hope that you have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends – get some rest friends! And get ready to get busy next year within our association. God bless.

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