Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education Starts Early

I had a young girl named Jordynn in my Pre-K class. Her name was a little tricky to spell, and she just wasn't getting it. We practiced again and again, but nothing. Until one day, she marches into class with her name written out perfectly in a pattern of colors. I was amazed, but Jordynn told me she went home and decided that she could do it. And she did.

These are the kind of "aha" moments early childhood educators get to see in our classrooms every day. A switch clicks in a child's head, and he or she is able to do today what seemed impossible yesterday. Seeing the priceless glow of pride on a child's face makes it easy for us to come to school excited to teach day in and day out.

I taught Preschool and Pre-K at Beers Elementary School -- a Title I school in Washington, D.C. -- before I taught Kindergarten. After I transitioned to Kindergarten, many of my students again found themselves in my classroom.

From my experience with both grades, I know firsthand that the kids who have been in Pre-K are better prepared for Kindergarten. They know what it's like to be in a classroom. They have a head start on reading and math. And they just generally find school easier to navigate.

Three of the students that I taught in Kindergarten who had been in Preschool/Pre-K left Kindergarten ready for second grade, not first. They exemplify how Pre-K puts students on a track for success in school and in life -- well, Pre-K and their parents, who care so much about their children's well-being and are willing to work with me to guarantee the best outcome possible.

As an early childhood educator, I am thrilled that President Barack Obama and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are coming together to move our nation closer to providing universal access to early childhood education. I was proud to stand with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) this month as they announced the Strong Start for America's Children Act.

Early learning does indeed offer our kids a strong start. I see it play out in my classroom every day. I'm a young teacher, so my oldest former students are still in elementary school. But I'm confident that those who got a strong start in Pre-K are bound to do well throughout school and end up as great, productive citizens.

Every child deserves an "aha" moment. Actually, every child deserves many "aha" moments. And that has to start early. That's why we've got to reclaim the promise of public education for every child. That's why we need to invest in early learning.

I couldn't wait to tell my students what I did last week. I couldn't wait to tell them how I stood with senators and representatives, and a few celebrities, who want them to succeed. And it'll be even better once I can tell them that this vital legislation has been signed into law.