‘Master leader’ talks about the value of preschool

Victoria Baker, global director of child development-care services for Cummins, has been named one of the Most Powerful Master Leaders in the Field of Early Care and Education.

The award is presented to 48 people internationally. The award had nominees in Singapore, Italy, Israel, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Bangladesh and elsewhere.

Baker has worked in early childhood education for 38 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and has worked for Cummins in her current role since 2006. Prior to that, she was director at the Cummins Child Development Center for six years. Her office is located at the Cummins Child Development Center, where she is activity involved in the education, care and services for Cummins children and employees. Victoria is featured in the November/December Exchange Magazine.

We asked Baker some questions about the importance of early childhood education:

Q: Why is early childhood education so important, not just in Columbus and in Indiana, but around the globe?

A: Ongoing studies show that high quality, developmentally appropriate early childhood programs produce positive effects on children in the present day as well as in their future. Decades of research have clearly demonstrated that experiences in a child’s young life make a difference in their lifelong academic and social success. “We” (“it takes a village …”) must all work together; this includes parents, educators, government officials and individuals in the private sector to provide high quality experiences, care/education for the success of all children. We need not just focus on how this affects us on a local level, but by having the mindset of the necessity to have quality programs and resources throughout our own state and nationally.

Two specific studies show that children who participate in early childhood education are major contributions to society:

  • Exhibit more secure attachments to adults and other children — building community
  • Score higher on cognitive and language ability¬†

Additionally, during the early years, 90 percent of a child’s brain is fully developed by the age of 5. It is crucial that all children around the globe have opportunities to reach their full potential and that programs are able to produce short- and long-term positive effects on children’s cognitive and social development.

Q: What are the challenges in early childhood education now?

A: Early childhood education programs need support and focused attention given to them by multiple areas. Having the support and backing on a local, state and even perhaps the national level speaks volumes. Having the proper resources is monumental. Quality early childhood education programs are costly, and to provide safe settings for children, there is a great deal of ongoing training, management and maintenance required. Hiring and retaining quality teachers is also a challenge. Nationwide, standard, low wages in the child care/education field, connected with the responsibility and stress in these occupations continues to make recruiting and retaining desirable teachers a challenge. ECE (early childhood education) faces challenges including the lack of available quality programs and environments that are truly safe, nurturing and educational. Many programs suffer from the absence of resources to have the ability to provide and/or a lack of staff with the true passion for children, and their development and growth. Giving attention to the importance of ensuring that ECE programs provide the very best educational, emotional and physical care is what will help to promote the future success, confidence and a love of learning in our children.

Q: What are your goals for the children of Cummins employees who attend the Cummins Child Development Center?

A: My goal for each child at the Cummins Child Development Center is that they feel safe, loved and comfortable in their environment. I also strive for them to be nurtured, to be understanding, sympathetic, confident individuals. Education is of the highest importance; however, I feel that it is even more important to provide opportunities to allow them to be caring, empathetic and nurturing individuals. My wish for them, too, is to be compassionate and love the world around them, love themselves as well as the people all around them.

Q: What does a community gain when it invests in early childhood education?

A: Communities gain a huge return on their investment when investing in early childhood education. A community with strong programs and providers is attractive and inviting to outsiders, existing families as well as employers seeking a valuable employee. Having quality programs available potentially provides a very positive draw to a community. Corporations stand to benefit from this as families, or individuals contemplating starting a family, weigh the value of settling in a community by what child care and educational options are present. Children that are encouraged to be stewards in their community are instilled with a sense of pride. Children who have been active and involved in their communities from a young age and throughout their lifetime are more able to see more clearly the benefits of a community with strong family and educational support.