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Nurturing Diversity: County and Public Leadership’s Vital Role in Addressing This Challenge!

In the grand finale of our Nurturing Diversity series, we shine a spotlight on an individual whose passion for early childhood education serves as a core theme of our series. Meet Andrea Burnett, a Coordinator, P3 Quality Improvement Initiatives at the San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE). Andrea’s story highlights the vital role of County and Public Leadership in dealing with diversity-related issues within early childhood education. As we conclude our series, we reflect on Andrea’s insights, illustrating how her commitment has helped shape a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape.

Reflecting on her journey into the early childhood landscape, Andrea reveals that her experience as a teenage mother played a pivotal role in shaping her trajectory. Initially, it was a routine child development class that sparked her interest. However, what began as a simple course quickly turned into new opportunities. With each unit she completed, Andrea earned teaching credits, which led her to secure a teacher’s assistant position through scholarships provided by First 5. Through continued determination, she earned her bachelor’s and eventually a full scholarship for her master’s.

Yet, Andrea’s journey is not without its unique challenges, especially as a Black woman navigating the landscape of early childhood education. She offers her insight of the field, where lack of resources and representation cast shadows over the bright futures of many children. The absence of Black providers and educators in classrooms leads to gaps in diversity, which undermines the inclusive nature that education should represent. Andrea emphasizes, “The lack of resources for children and families, especially in underserved communities, impacts not only teachers entering the field but also the opportunities available to children.”

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However, Andrea is not one to give in to adversity. In her role providing quality improvement supports to early childhood educators across San Mateo County, she amplifies the importance of culturally relevant teaching methods and enriches early learning classrooms with diverse posters, books, and materials. For Andrea, advocating for authentic representation is about more than just visual representation; it’s about creating spaces where every child feels seen, valued, and empowered to embrace their identity.

But the journey towards equity doesn’t end there. Andrea advocates for accessible, community-centric early childhood education, where quality programs are not limited to the fortunate few. Instead, Andrea believes that our community’s resources should be redistributed, with greater investment in the foundational early years of a child’s education, rather than waiting until later in a child’s life.

As she looks towards the future, Andrea is hopeful for the early childhood landscape to fully embrace developmentally appropriate practices– where children are encouraged to continue exploring, discovering, and learning through hands-on experiences. This approach, she believes, fosters more enriching and effective learning environments, reducing behavior problems and allowing children the freedom to engage with materials, space, and peers in meaningful ways. 

Andrea  compares education to a sliding door, where anyone is able to step into the world of the other person. “Classrooms create that space,” Andrea reflects, “And if we have authentic representation and authentic sharing of ideas and respect for those ideas and ways of being, then both sides are really learning and growing together.” 

Two black babies

And amidst the challenges and triumphs, Andrea finds solace in the impactful moments. Like the day many years ago when she experienced a father questioning her choice of profession, only to be greeted by a chorus of joyous laughter and hugs from her students. “It’s those moments that reaffirm my purpose, reminding me that education is not just about teaching–I’m changing lives,” she adds.

As we look back on Black History Month, Andrea’s story serves as a testament to the transformative power of education and the unwavering dedication of those who champion it. Through her words and actions, Andrea Burnett embodies the core principles of nurturing diversity, emphasizing the crucial role of county and public leadership in addressing the systemic challenges that affect our communities.

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New Evaluation Finds that a Trauma-Informed Clinic is the Foundation for Successful Adoption of ACE Screening

A new paper confirms a central tenet of the ACEs Aware initiative – a trauma-informed environment of care is a crucial foundation for Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) screening.  

The paper, entitled Clinic Readiness for Trauma-Informed Health Care Is Associated with Uptake of Screening for Adverse Childhood Experiences, was published in The Permanente Journal in January 2024 and was conducted as part of the California ACEs Learning and Quality Improvement Collaborative (CALQIC).  

In the paper, the evaluation found that clinics that experienced larger increases in readiness for trauma-informed health care over the course of the 16-month CALQIC learning collaborative screened significantly more patients for ACEs, supporting the longstanding ethos that trauma inquiry, such as ACE screening, is best accomplished in trauma-informed environments of care. 

Read the Paper

Learn how First 5 San Mateo County is embedding trauma- and resiliency- informed policies and practices at every level of early childhood systems.