Early Childhood students meet with state representatives

UW-L's School of Education students and staff pictured with Rep. Jill Billings.

UW-L’s School of Education students and staff pictured with Rep. Jill Billings. From left, Jill Billings, Ann Epstein, Sheila Wirkus, Sarah Archer, Anne Riebe, Jourdan Stacey, Emily Davis, Amanda Wagner, Abby Johnson, Marcie Wycoff-Horn and Rick Stewart

Six UW-L students journeyed to the state capitol April 1 to share their thoughts about best practices for early childhood education. They met with 95th District State Rep. Jill Billings and State Sen. Jennifer Shilling.

The School of Education students joined the Wisconsin Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (WACTE) for a statewide meeting during the annual “Day on the Hill” in Madison. It’s an opportunity for all Wisconsin institutes of higher learning to speak with elected officials about issues in education.

“This experience will definitely impact me as a future educator,” says UW-L student Anne Riebe. β€œWhen I decided to be a teacher, I didn’t realize all that goes into it. Not only do we teach our students, but we may be called to do even more for them.”

Early Childhood Education Assistant Professor Ann Epstein says an important part of her job is helping future teachers learn how to speak about issues regarding the education of young children.

“I was proud and completely confidant that tomorrow’s children will be taught by highly skilled, caring teachers,” Epstein explained after the day.

Image of State Sen. Jennifer Shilling talking to UW-L students at the state capitol.

State Sen. Jennifer Shilling talks to UW-L students at the state capitol.

Students focused on the ways developmental research informs best practices for teaching and learning in early childhood education. Students noted the amount of time young children spend on testing and test preparation, and the negative impacts this can have. The Early Childhood Education majors advocated for protecting developmentally appropriate practices for young children, and shared their experiences in kindergarten and preschool classrooms.

The students also cited the positive impact and importance of social learning in the early grades. Students Amanda Wagner, Emily Davis and Sarah Archer gave first-hand examples of the stress-related behaviors they have observed during their field experiences in classrooms. Billings agreed that this is a concern that deserves attention and gave some pointers on how to advocate effectively for meaningful change.

Billings says she was, “impressed with the professionalism and the dedication,” of the UW-L students.

Shilling commented that as a parent she has observed first-hand the effects of test pressure in schools, and has heard from other families that it is a growing problem.

Undergraduate Amanda Wagner said, “This experience has shown me that representatives will listen.”

The students left Madison feeling good about the experience, and with hopes of building relationships to effectively work for Wisconsin’s children in the future. Epstein and Marcie-Wycoff Horn, director of the School of Education, left feeling positive about their UW-L students.