A Reflection by Sheelagh Carleton, Preschool Director and Teacher at Saint Cecilia Catholic School

April 28, 2023

Why is early childhood education so important?  

Early childhood education isn’t just important, it’s vital. Preschool is a place where children can gain foundational skills in literacy, math, and science through play and exploration. It is a very special time in the lives of young children in which their brains are on fire for learning. In our class, we learn as much about emotions, friends, community, and other meaningful values as we do about ABC’s and 1,2,3’s.   

We don’t stop there, though. In early childhood education, we are guiding, encouraging, and informing families just as much as we are educating young children. The connections we make with families and students help them build confidence and create a relationship with the school that they will be attending for years to come. Preschool is a great place to grow a love of learning in young children! In the same way, preschool offers time and space to strengthen understanding and comfort for parents who are just entering the school system with their young children.  

Early childhood education creates lasting learning success in children and builds connection for young families.  

What are some things you love about Saint Cecilia’s early learning program?  

I especially enjoy the buddy program we have at Saint Cecilia. We pair students in different grade levels together, creating connection and understanding between the ages. Preschool students work with 3rd graders weekly, sitting together at Mass, reading with one another, visiting the local library together biweekly, creating collaborative art, and even celebrating holidays and special events as a group.  

What’s your favorite part about being an early childhood education instructor?  

There are many things I love about being an early childhood education teacher! It is hard to really pinpoint a favorite part about my job because each year, each day, each student, each family offers a new experience. Perhaps THAT is exactly what I love most about this job. I am an adventurer, and this job offers its own unique type of adventure every single day.  

When I really pause to think about this question though, I am aware that this is not just a job, but a vocation. Being so incredibly loved by my students is something that definitely keeps me coming back. I’m somewhat of a celebrity in my classroom! On the flip side, having the opportunity to care for and connect with my students and their families daily, to shine love on them, is what completes my mission. I appreciate that I have the opportunity to introduce children and their parents to the wonderful world of education.  

Why is Catholic education so important?  

Catholic education is important during these formative years because here we are able to discuss kindness, care, and respect on a whole different level. I can share with these students how vastly loved they are by Jesus. We have the privilege to pray with our students, teaching them to have a relationship, not just with those around them, but also with God.  

Additionally, Catholic schools often combine grade levels from preschool or kindergarten through middle school. The students really benefit from being together in this scenario, building a caring, respectful relationship for kids younger or older than themselves. 

How has Fulcrum supported your school?  

The most notable manner in which Fulcrum supports the early learning programs throughout the Archdiocese of Seattle is through the creation and financial support of the director of early childhood education position, held by Dave Mayer. With Dave taking the lead and supporting each preschool, questions are more easily answered, continuing education is readily available, connections between teachers and across programs are supported, AND teaching preschool has become more fun! We recently had our first in-person early childhood education conference since the pandemic and the energy in the room was high! We had fun and learned a lot. I am looking forward to more opportunities like that.  

At the Celebration of Light 2023, early childhood education was highlighted in such a beautiful way. Sharing and showing off what we do as the earliest educators is the kind of support that really allows us early learning teachers to shine!  

On a more personal note, Fulcrum supported the program at Saint Cecilia specifically by granting us the funds that allowed me to earn my early childhood education certificate. I recently completed my studies last month and am inspired by the education I received! As you may have heard at the gala, my family also benefited from the support of Fulcrum when our son received a tuition assistance grant which allowed him to attend Saint Cecilia while my husband was completing grad school. Thank you, Fulcrum!!!  

Why does supporting Catholic education make such a difference?  

When you donate to Fulcrum, you aren’t simply funding education, you are supporting the community and the foundational support of Catholic values in young people. Whether your money goes directly to a scholarship fund to allow families to attend their local Catholic school or to a special program such as early learning, you are supporting the creation of community, the joy of learning, and the formation of meaningful values. Without you, Fulcrum could not reach as many families and students as it does. Because of supporters like you, these programs are able to make a positive difference at each Catholic school, touching the lives of so many children, and supporting families in their vastly different needs. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?  

I’d like to say thank you for interviewing me; for allowing the preschool community to be heard and highlighted. In this society, too many people don’t fully understand the value of early childhood education, but Fulcrum does. I’m so excited for the work we are doing; together we can change the world!