What a Difference Relationships Make: The Infant Toddler Technical Assistance Model Pilot Project

six team members meeting via zoom

“Intensive,” “high quality,” “successful” and “transformative” are words used to describe this innovative technical assistance model that includes coaching, modeling, mentorship, professional development and consultation. These services are offered to classroom teachers and directors. It is a full-circle, comprehensive model supporting child care centers as a whole.

The Infant Toddler Technical Assistance Model Pilot Project knows what can happen with commitment, perseverance and strong communication.

Let’s back up…

In April 2019, six technical assistance practitioners from Randolph County Partnership for Children, Children’s Council of Watauga County and Child Care Resource Center were asked to come together to deliver these comprehensive services. Their experience ranged from former classroom teachers and directors to fresh-faced and seasoned technical assistance providers to provide varied and thorough perspectives as a team.

They were immediately called upon to dive into the world of Infant CLASS® certification, Toddler CLASS® certification and PAS certifications. They needed to obtain Technical Assistant (TA) and Professional Development (PD) endorsements as well as NC Early Educator Certification all while learning the ins and outs of the position, becoming acquainted with their agencies and beginning to reach out to centers and classrooms willing to commit to such a high level of assistance. They were led by an experienced mentor/coach to guide and support them through all these experiences. Everyone rose to the challenge and began celebrating the successes before long.

Then COVID hit…

The program—built on a framework of weekly, on-site and in-person coaching—was suddenly turned upside down. No longer able to visit centers, teachers and classrooms, the team quickly brainstormed alternatives that allowed them to continue building relationships and coach and move forward in a virtual world. These innovative ideas and their implementation has allowed the program to continue to be rock-solid support for teachers, classrooms and directors. Through flexible and responsive use of video conferencing, online professional development, virtual classroom observations, “drop-n-go” materials and technology and basic communication methods such as text, phone, email and even traditional mail, the program transformed into a 21st century model of technical assistance.

Fast forward to today…

Twenty-four classrooms have improved immensely. Teachers have shifted their focus and implemented permanent, effective change; directors have made positive adjustments for staff, parents and children; and TAs have experienced professional growth and development. These are just a few examples of the measurable progress seen through this program.

The immeasurable progress adds additional levels of improvement and growth. The trust founded between TAs, TAs and teachers, TAs and directors, teachers and directors, etc., is a significant outcome. The flexibility and ability to adapt effectively to expected and unexpected changes such as teacher turnover, pregnancy leaves, personality disputes, the COVID-19 pandemic, technology glitches and many more, has allowed all involved to work through multiple challenges and come out stronger, better and more knowledgeable than before.

The top 10 things the team learned in 2020:

  1. Challenges are easier to overcome when faced TOGETHER
  2. Patience truly is a virtue
  3. There is a solution to every problem
  4. Flexibility is key
  5. Video reflection is a powerful tool for professional growth and development
  6. Self-care is extremely important
  7. No two centers or classrooms are alike; each is different just as with the children we serve
  8. It is OK if you try something and it doesn’t work; move on to the next idea
  9. Small steps toward a large goal will eventually achieve success
  10. Early childhood is worth every penny invested in it

Meet the Infant Toddler Intensive Technical Assistance Model Pilot Project Team

(left to right) Natalie Bumgarner, Maggie Connolly (mentor leader from CCSA), Lorrie Looper, Kayla Absher, Lori Anderson, Joy Johnson and Scarlet Welborn
(left to right) Natalie Bumgarner, Maggie Connolly (mentor leader from CCSA), Lorrie Looper, Kayla Absher, Lori Anderson, Joy Johnson and Scarlet Welborn
Meeting virtually and collaborating monthly to share ideas and offer support to each other: Partner teams include Natalie Bumgarner and Lori Anderson from Child Care Resource Center -Region 10, Scarlet Welborn and Joy Johnson from the Randolph County Partnership for Children and Lorrie Looper and Kayla Absher from The Children’s County of Watauga County.