Building Political Power
Building political power: Theodore Kokoros
Theodore's Story: Theodore Kokoros has a quick answer when asked for the best way to build strong leadership within the ECE field: “Making sure our voices are heard.”
As a field, ECE is a traditionally low-paying, predominantly female, and largely not unionized. Such conditions don’t typically translate to political power, observes Kokoros, a Lead Pre-K Teacher at the Transportation Children’s Center in Boston and an adjunct professor at several area colleges.
“I think as a field we need to do better on engaging in policy directly,” Kokoros says. That means paying attention to legislation, sharing ECE expertise with legislators and policymakers, writing letters to the editor, and even protesting when warranted. It also means sharing information with one another about policy developments in order to engage more ECE professionals in advocacy.
Kokoros’s awareness of policy issues was heightened by his experience in the PMC program, and since graduating, he’s become a policy evangelist of sorts. He now gets 15 minutes before monthly staff meetings to give policy updates to his coworkers. He also creates a monthly flier highlighting important policy developments in the ECE field that he shares with staff. He is also more active in his online networks, sharing information and offering and seeking professional support.
Although he does not get political with his students’ parents, Kokoros has become more proactive about explaining to them the developmental and pedagogical reasons behind his classroom activities to correct the widespread misperception that preschool teachers don’t actually teach. So he sends home articles and occasionally emails them ideas for at-home activities that reinforce what is happening at the center.
Aside from making him more policy-minded, the PMC afforded numerous networking opportunities for Kokoros. He found support within his expanded professional network to continue his professional development and was accepted into Lesley University’s education doctoral program shortly after finishing the PMC. He also secured an adjunct position in UMASS Boston’s Early Education Program.
His professional growth and development has made him feel more confident to become an informal mentor to younger colleagues who are trying to navigate higher education programs, costs, time management, transferring credits and other issues as they build ECE careers.
“Having gone through that process I’m more aware of stuff like that, so it’s made me feel more comfortable and my boss has...empowered me to kind of help the younger staff in terms of their journeys,” says Kokoros.
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