Podcast: Ms. Jessica Goes to the State Capitol


Click here to listen to the podcast version of this article, or copy and paste this link:  http://jessicacastleberry1.homestead.com/Podcast-Ms-Jessica-Goes-to-the-State-Capitol.html?_=1486931713526


I had heard through the grapevine that there were two new bills being introduced in South Dakota specific to early childhood education. Bill 155 dealt with starting a preschool pilot program, simplified meaning that 2000 income qualifying families would have access to $2500 each to help with tuition. Bill 156 focused on the development of an early learning council.  This council would combine individuals from sixteen different sectors to come together as a state to discuss all ideas/concerns/future planning for early childhood education in South Dakota.  South Dakota is one of only six states that does not have an early learning council.

There’s a lot that I could say about the details of both bills.  If you are interested in the read, you can find Bill 155 and Bill 156 in the links I have provided.  You can even tune into a podcast of the Senate Education Committee Hearing where the bills were presented.  It is about two hours long, but if you care to hear my testimony starts at about 11 minutes in, although the entire hearing is worth a listen.

I mentioned earlier that I had heard that these two bills were being presented.  I serve on several boards and advocacy groups, and only one had even mentioned the bills in passing during a conference call on January 25th.  That call provided about as much detail as I have given you (maybe one or two sentences).  I have been doing a bit of research lately on federal policies and interacting with lawmakers for a different trip I have coming up and so I began to research the legislative process at the state level.

I have to admit politics are something I have only ever been peripherally invested in.  I generally have enough information to know who I want to vote for, but beyond that my knowledge is very sparse.  I used to fall asleep in my high school Government class, not because it wasn’t interesting but more-so because it was right after lunch (sorry Mr. Randall).  Those who are politically inclined may read this and think “How could she not know this or that?” It’s important to look outside of our realm of knowledge, and to approach some situations with a sense of, “How would the uninformed look at this?” I’m the first to admit I’m uninformed about a lot of things!

Through my research I discovered that the legislative session is NOW so these bills would be introduced very soon. On February 5th (Super Bowl Sunday) I figured out that both bills had been read on February 1st.  I E-subscribed to follow the bills, this way I would receive emailed updates to my inbox.  On Tuesday, February 7th at about 4:30 pm I received an email that stated the bills were scheduled for the Senate Education Committee Hearing Thursday, February 9th at 7:45 am CT.

For about the next 38 hours I contacted one of my fellow advocates to see if she could go, I researched protocol and the best way to deliver my message, and of course drove the three hours to our state capitol (I also slept a little).  I want to share with you the top four things I took away from this experience:

The State of South Dakota does not provide public information on how to become involved in state government

There are several states that provide great information on how to testify at legislative hearings, such as  WisconsinNorth Dakota, and Hawaii.  Because I am a stickler for detail, I called the information line at the capitol in Pierre to verify the guidelines were the same here.  They said they would leave a “sticky note” on the Chair of the Committee’s desk to call me and answer that question. If I had waited for that call back I wouldn’t have made it to Pierre because I am still waiting.  Someone would eventually find me dead at my desk and my epitaph would read, “The senator never called her back.”

Politics can be ugly

While there are hundreds of people who supported my decision to go, there is always pushback.  There are the opponents to the bills, but there are also a lot of people working in the early childhood education industry who don’t see the benefit of moving forward.  They either don’t understand the changes, or they see no reason to change.  It is so vital that we continue to have these conversations, on BOTH sides. This way we can try to meet in the middle and do what is best for young children.

Advocacy is more important than ever

If I hadn’t stumbled into this information, early childhood education wouldn’t have had ANY representation at this hearing.  The other testifiers were from other professional groups, and though their presence was important, it was ludicrous that no one IN OUR INDUSTRY would’ve been there.  Is it because professionals who are passionate are tired of being ignored? Is it because our next generation of professionals don’t know how they can make an impact?  We’re watching the kids and helping them grow, but who’s in charge of watching us and helping us grow?

It wasn’t (that) scary

The hearing was really an opportunity to have a conversation with the senators on the committee.  They were supportive and interested in what I had to say.  The number one piece of advice I would give, is to try to think like a lawyer and guess what the opposing side is going to say, because you can’t stand up in the middle of the hearing and yell, “That’s not true!” or “That data is erroneous!” You have to anticipate what they might say and address it when you speak.

The only poor grade I received in high school was in Debate.  I got a D and it brought down my whole grade point average.  I don’t like to argue, and I guess I missed the class description that said “debate means arguing.” Being an advocate isn’t only for the passionate “Young (Political Party) of America,” or those who relish in the political process, or only for those who not only aced Debate, but were on the Debate team.  Being an advocate is an important part of walking the walk.  Anybody can talk the talk and complain. Advocates raise awareness and keep the conversation going, even when their bills are deferred to the forty first day. If you don’t know what that means you’ll have to look it up!

As always thank you for tuning in to Early Education Plantation. Comment. Connect. Cultivate Change.

Check us out on Facebook to keep the conversation going!

Podcast Palooza!


Have you missed out on our podcasts?

Each of our podcasts features an exclusive interview with area professionals such as:

Susan Dotson, Owner of Dot to Dot Child Care and Winner of the Rapid City Early Childhood Educator of the Year Award 2016 

Kim Booth, Professional Development Coordinator for Early Childhood Connections

Kayla Klein, Director of Northern Hills Alliance for Children First Step Child Care

Collene Fletcher, Co-President of the Black Hills Association for the Education of Young Children

Lorie Eichert, Network Lead for the South Dakota After School Network

Tune in to each podcast for resources, insight, and interesting conversation. Join me, and meet some of the leaders in Early Childhood Education in South Dakota!

Follow us on Facebook

Lorie Eichert: Exclusive Podcast Interview


Join me, Jessica Castleberry, as I sit down with Lorie Eichert, Network Lead for the South Dakota After School Network.  We discuss Lorie’s experience as a business owner, life coach, and her role as the Network Lead.  We delve into the mission of the South Dakota After School Network, and resources and opportunities for early childhood educators, parents, and after school program directors.  Tune in for Lorie’s inspiring advice for new educators and hear her one wish for South Dakota!

To tune in now, click here


Links referenced in the podcast:

SoDakSACA, South Dakota School Age Alliance: http://www.sodaksaca.org/
For Membership Information, Reach Out to bbakeber@spearfish.k12.sd.us
For more about Lorie:   www.lorieeichert.com
After School Day at the Capitol is Wednesday, February 1, 2017, Pierre
Out of School Time Director’s Retreat is April 27-29, 2017 Keystone
SoDakSACA Conference is October 5-7, 2017 Pierre

Facebook Giveaway! Copy of 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership


Did you know Early Education Plantation has a Facebook fan page?

If you’re not already a Facebook fan, like our page to be entered for your chance to win this month’s giveaway, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell.


If you are a fan you can still like, comment, or share this post for your chance to win!

As always thank you for reading Early Education Plantation and remember:

Comment. Connect. Cultivate Change.

The mission of Early Education Plantation is to provide leadership, mentorship, communication, training, and advocacy for early childhood educators, as well as form collaborations with our communities.

Repeat Offenders: Common Laws Broken in Early Childhood Education


Hi my name is Jessica Castleberry and this is Early Education Plantation, a blog community providing resources, connectivity, and dialogue for those interested and invested in early childhood education.

Today I am taking a different approach to the blog and providing a podcast in addition to the weekly article.  I can appreciate that it can be easier to listen to a podcast while you’re multitasking than to sit and read. For those who are reading, be prepared for a much more conversational tone to this article.

For the podcast, click here ( http://jessicacastleberry1.homestead.com/Podcast–Repeat-Offenders.html?_=1484063797412 )

Or read on:

I want to delve into a couple of laws I’ve seen repeatedly broken, one: price fixing, courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission, and the other, overtime rules, from the Department of Labor.  After that I just want to touch on two of our child care services licensing laws: ratios, and then the importance of checking IDs.

Let’s start with price fixing.   I have received calls over the years from other directors in our area calling me to ask what our rates are.  You can’t do this guys!  The simple act of calling another center, identifying yourself as a director and asking me (another director) for our rates is breaking a Federal Trade Law and could be viewed as price fixing. Merriam Webster defines price fixing as the usually illegal act or practice of agreeing with business competitors to set prices at a level instead of allowing prices to be determined by competition.  I’m not saying that the directors calling me have been trying to start a child care crime syndicate, and think that we can all raise our rates to an insane level that parents can’t pay.  In our industry, it is illegal even to ask me, because it implies that a conversation might take place to agree to raise rates.  Due process for competition would be to do your research.  Look at competitor’s websites, read a handbook, or call if you have to, just don’t identify your position because it is breaking the law.  There’s also a great resource in the state of South Dakota, it’s called the Market Rate Survey sent out by the Department of Social Services every two years.  This is filled with information on what many centers charge for full time and part time tuition, what benefits and wage they offer employees, and it’s broken down by county.  Great information, all in one spot, and it’s totally legal to obtain. There is a new Market Rate Survey coming out in May of 2017, however I have included the link for the 2015 Survey at the end of the article.

Moving on to another big offender, overtime rules for staff.  This can become a problem for early childhood educators due to meeting teacher to student ratios, staff absences, trying to fill open positions, if the center doesn’t have limits on how long children can attend the program per day, or if there are families who are perpetually late for pick up.   The federal requirement to be eligible to be a salaried employee is a wage of at least $455 per week, the employee must be paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed, and the employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the regulations. I’ve heard horror stories time and again of young ladies working ten hour days, five days a week because the center was short-handed, and not being reimbursed at an overtime rate.  Our workforce needs to be developed, but that also includes more information and education on their worker’s rights.  Hopefully you are aware of the hub-bub in the media regarding the Department of Labor’s attempt to change the requirements for overtime rules.  The rate for salaried workers was slated to rise in December of 2016 from $455 a week to $970 a week. That decision has been postponed by a preliminary injunction for now, however the Department of Labor is in the process of appealing and that preliminary injunction.  Directors and owners need to know we cannot ask our employees who are making less than $455 per week in a non-administrative position to work more than forty hours per week without overtime pay, and our employees need to know that too.

There are special challenges in this industry because of the types of licensing laws that are state mandated.  Anyone who has a stake in early childhood education should be aware of what these guidelines are. This extends beyond the directors, teachers, and support personnel.  Parents, grandparents and truly the community at large would benefit from being aware of state standards and how we measure up to the rest of the nation.  I’ve included a link below for anyone interested in perusing our South Dakota state guidelines, which if you’re not familiar, cover everything from structural requirements, to water temperature, to training for staff.  It is an interesting read I think too, for anyone who has ever heard from an in-home daycare that they don’t want to become registered because it is “too difficult,” or the rules are too stringent.  Rather than accepting this response, parents who are considering an unregistered versus a registered daycare should see the guidelines for themselves and make that judgement call.  It can also create dialogue with an unregistered provider as to the specific guidelines their in-home daycare doesn’t meet.

In early childhood education, there are certain requirements that facilities must be staffed to meet student to teacher ratios.  It is vitally important to meet these ratios to ensure the quality of experience for students and staff.  A center may struggle to meet these ratios for many of the same reasons mentioned with the potential for overtime. Staff absences, trying to fill an open position, lack of substitutes, or if the center doesn’t have limits on how long children can attend the program per day all contribute to a risk for being over-ratio.  In South Dakota, our student to teacher ratio varies by age.  For zero to two years old, it’s one teacher- five students.  For three to five years old, it’s one teacher- ten students.  For ages six to twelve, it is one teacher- fifteen students.  When a parent walks into a center and sees ten two year olds with one teacher, they should be alarmed.  When an assistant instructor is new to teaching and they are asked to run a circle time for twenty minutes with twenty children while their lead teacher makes a personal phone call, that is wrong.  All employees are supposed to read the state standards, but in many cases the standards aren’t reviewed with them, or the employee is afraid that they will lose their position if they say anything to a supervisor.

I heard a story the other day from someone who went to pick up her newly adopted grandchild from preschool for the first time. Her story described a large, well-reputed center in our area.  When she entered the classroom, she called out to her grandson who came to her.  The teachers greeted her.  When she turned to sign her grandson out, she realized her grandchild’s last name had not been legally changed yet and she couldn’t remember how to spell it.  It was ONLY at this moment that the instructors asked to see her ID and check it against their approved pick up list.  This is a huge error, one that is too frequent among child care staff.  The state mandates that IDs must be checked the first time an alternate pick up occurs, but regardless it is the best practice to help ensure that our students are taken safely from our care.

I think that it is vital for the progression of early childhood education in our state to accept that these problems are not, about “this center,” or “that center.”  These issues are not about “in-home,” versus “school district,” versus “centers.” These problems are within our workforce, they are within the lack of professionalism in our management, and at the very core of how we are operating our facilities as a community.  These problems are stemming from disinterest in the quality of care and education in our state from our community at large.  Early childhood education can’t be only a day-time place holder for our children which we give little or no thought to.  It is important to advocate for change, because of what we can become, and how we can achieve for our youngest community members.

Thank you for tuning in to Early Education Plantation and as always, remember to comment, connect, and cultivate change!

More information on licensing requirements: http://dss.sd.gov/childcare/licensing/

More information on the 2015 Market Rate Survey: http://dss.sd.gov/docs/childcare/final_report.pdf


Worried About Your Little Worrier? A Guide to Manage Kid’s Anxiety & Stress


As a child, I was labelled a ‘worrywart.’
Children need assistance and support from their peers and authority figures to help them overcome unnecessary stress—and let them get back to being young!

My blog this week is located again at Fractus Learning as a guest writer.

Click here for  a resource guide for worried youths.

P.S. Teresa Ann Power- author of ABC Yoga for Kids left a comment on my blog at Fractus- how cool is that?

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Fabienne D.

The Needs and Concerns of the Prescholar


First I would like to announce the winner of our giveaway! Across Linkedin, Facebook, and our site, Wendy Conrad has been selected!  Wendy will receive the book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. I am so glad that Wendy finds value in the blog as a conversational tool for her students!


I have traveled to Mexico before and always make it a point to visit a prescholar.

The prescholar I visit has changed every year depending upon various factors. In 2015 the prescholar I visited the year before had been destroyed by a hurricane, and the administrator told me it had put a tremendous strain on the other local facilities to try to help the displaced children.

Sometimes I am able to contact the administrators before I go, and other times I have hopped into a cab and said, “Take me to a preschool!”

Our preschool collects items over the year for me to deliver. We ask students what they would like for preschoolers from Mexico to know about them. Our care packages include a variety of items,  information about our area, and stuffed toys that represent local animals. We order extra bilingual books from Scholastic during the year and have even taken Indian fry bread mix for them to sample.

The streets of downtown Cabo San Lucas are busy and bright, with a light dusting of powdery dirt.  The tour companies are working hard, welcoming you from their kiosks and offering tours to El Arco or zip lines. The hosts and hostesses beckon for you to come to their restaurant, and everyone has “the best tacos” in town.

The palm trees are tall, the streets are alive with sound, and the air is a humid 89 degrees.

Further in are the blocks and blocks of storage unit shops, each metal door representing a “small business owner.” From  9:00 am to 9:30 pm these doors will be open with a kaleidoscope rainbow of colors. The shopkeepers  will be calling to tourists, “The price is right, senorita!” and “Almost free for you today!” I wonder where they live, if their families have one of the small haciendas further in, or how many of them live in shanties like chicken coops in the arroyos. I wonder if they had to ride the public bus to work, how long their trip was, and where their children are.

There are signs that read “No exploitacion infantils” which go into further detail to caution you from buying things from children. Purchasing items from children on the street perpetuates pulling children from school to help support the family. A little boy of about eight approaches me to sell me shells and I say in what I hope was a kind but firm way, “No gracias, you should be in school.”

Closer now to real life and further from the malls, marina, and tourist wonderlands, I am closer to Mexico. There are three prescholars clustered at an intersection, the fourth corner occupied by a hollowed out cement building surrounded by broken glass. Abandoned by all assumptions of the Americanos zipping by in taxis, but if you look closely, people live there.

The prescholar I choose is small and plain surrounded by a tall metal fence. I ring the bell and wait.

“Buenos Dias!”  Chirps a slight Mexican woman with a big smile. I hand her my note courtesy of Google translator explaining in Spanish that I am a preschool owner from South Dakota, and that if it is all right I would like to come inside and see their school and give them a few gifts.

She reads over my letter. The look on her face can only be described as someone who is fluent in Spanish trying to read Chinese. Thanks a lot Google. She smiles and leaves to get their administrator.

I am greeted next by Victoria. By the end of our conversation and the tour of the school, I know we are cut from the same cloth of dedication to early childhood education. While we might be “professionalism twins,” and “leadership sisters,” you can still tell us apart, as I am about twelve inches taller than her, and she is just a little tanner than me.

I could tell another story about their school. A large fenced in courtyard with AstroTurf was covered by green canopies to block out the Baja desert sun. All of the children were in white polo shirts with either shorts or skirts in navy blue. What impacted me most was the even split of male to female teachers, and of course the friendly, inquisitive children.

Victoria graciously received the gifts from our preschool. She then looked at me frankly and said, “Why us?” I said, “Because I knew fate would lead me where I was supposed to go.” Her eyes filled with tears and she replied, “Muchas gracias.”

While random acts of kindness in foreign countries are nice, you don’t have to travel abroad to help high risk communities with early childhood education. You can donate to organizations such  as the NAEYC. There is also plenty of need in our own communities.  Centers that offer extended hours, weekend care, infant care, and care for children with mild illnesses are huge needs not only in Rapid City, but South Dakota as well and across the Midwest. Lack of flexible, quality care and education affects children and their families.  In our community we have young parents who can’t complete general education diplomas, attend evening classes for advanced degrees, some aren’t even able to make it to work due to limited hours of child care availability.  You can also help by donating to centers in your community who have needs. An example of this is Dear One’s Daycare Center in Rapid City that serves families who are homeless.  They are always looking for donated items. Early childhood educators can also partner with organizations like Starting Strong Rapid City to help provide full day care for low income families.

What are the needs and concerns of the prescholar? They are not so different from our own. They want health and safety for their students. They want a community who understands and supports the importance of early childhood education. They want to help their student’s families by giving their children a fun place to play and learn when they have to be apart.

Helping Focused Kids Who Need Individual Learning Space and Time


My blog for this week is located again at Fractus Learning!

It contains four ideas to help focused and meticulous preschoolers learn through individual learning space and a little more time. Head on over to Fractus and check it out!


Thank you for reading Early Education Plantation! Comment. Connect. Cultivate Change.

No Yelling Zone


According to psychologists, yelling is like a human fire alarm.  We are equipped with the ability to yell to warn each other about dangerous situations.  Yelling is a natural part of dealing with a high stress, high stakes situation.  It is frequently misused during high stress situations where the anxiety is coming from anger or frustration, and not from providing a warning.

“The raising of your voice does not increase the validity of your argument.”

~Steve Maraboli


Why do teachers yell and how can we fix it?

Yelling in the classroom has been a recurring theme that I have observed as an early childhood educator.  As an owner of a preschool, it has been a particularly challenging subject.  Oftentimes a teacher won’t start out yelling in the classroom (those who do don’t make it through their initial observation period).  It is something that creeps in slowly, a raised voice here, a sharp tone there.  How and when should co-workers step in?  What is causing the problem, and how can we help solve it?

Yelling is a learned behavior

Many times adults yell because it is what they observed as children.  They were either yelled at by their parents, or they had teachers who would gain control of their classroom by raising their voice.  This can be tricky to change because yelling is a normal part of their home culture.  Teachers who yell as a learned behavior are often unaware that the volume of their voice is inappropriate and they see nothing wrong with that type of classroom management.

There are several ways to help a teacher who is yelling as a natural tendency. Visit with them about it privately. Remind them when their tone is too elevated.  The biggest key is to model the correct tone of voice and to try to help them bridge the gap and recognize the difference.

This is the most challenging yelling circumstance to correct, as frequently the yelling teacher will be unable to realize that they have a problem.  If necessary it can be helpful to have a third party classroom observer come in to make an unbiased documentation of what their impression was of the classroom.


Yelling to control and intimidate and solutions through better training

Some teachers are not consistent yellers, but they will utilize it when they become unable to manage student behavior.  A lot of the time I think this is from new teachers or assistants who love children but don’t have a lot of training for how to interact with large groups at one time, or how to handle challenging behaviors.

Positive modeling comes in handy with this group again, as they may simply not know many tricks of the trade that we find so common place.  Giving children warnings before a transition, using transition songs and activities, and changing words from, “Don’t run!” to “Use walking feet.” are all tools that are so vital in crowd control, and some of our newer teachers and assistants simply haven’t learned the language yet.

Yelling out of frustration and how to de-stress teachers

Sometimes you have an excellent seasoned teacher who one day blows their lid.  The ideal is to avoid any lid-blowing altogether.  Our parents are horrified by the thought that an early childhood educator could ever have a “bad day” and  have a moment where they lack self control in our environment.  These are the same parents who may have a meltdown at their desk, yell at a supervisor, or walk out of their building to cool off after an altercation with a co-worker.

Early childhood educators by design must be more patient, understanding, and controlled than the average human being.  In spite of all of this, discord with coworkers, a death in the family, or a higher than normal workload can take its toll on the best of us.  Just like any other work situation, it is important to provide support and understanding to those going through a hard time.  Yelling from a teacher who is normally calm and collected of course is not excusable, but it is also a BIG RED FLAG that they need a little extra help.

We utilize a phrase called “teacher time out,” where a teacher can have an assistant with their class while they step out of the room to cool off. Other teachers are also allowed to use this phrase with each other in a supportive way to suggest they take a moment outside.  It is important to be aware of the stress of those around you and look for ways that you can help or rearrange tasks, schedules, etc to improve the environment.

What if it doesn’t work?

Many studies show that being yelled at is bad for kids, like this one from the September 2013 issue of the Journal of Child Psychology.  Even with our best intentions, some teachers won’t give up their addiction to yelling.  If interactions don’t improve these teachers have to be removed from classrooms in the best interest of students.  Many teachers with a talent and passion for working with children have been lost to our profession because they cannot overcome this learned behavior as an effective behavior management technique.  We can provide modeling, training, and resources, but we cannot force anyone to change their behavior.  Not even if we yell at them!