Reflections on leadership from Ann Terrell: Are you a “shero?”

Ann McClain Terrell

Ann McClain Terrell

As early childhood educators, you lead children every day. Why not also lead your community in understanding the importance of your work? We asked Ann Terrell, director of Early Childhood Education for Milwaukee Public Schools,how she became a leader and advocate for all early educators.

Q: What is your definition of a leader? 

A leader is someone who can influence the decisions and actions of others. Leaders seek out opportunities to challenge the status quo, in a meaningful and productive way.  Good leaders also know when to follow. Here’s a quote I really like:

“Being a trailblazer doesn’t do any good if you let the “high weeds” grow back because no one followed you.”
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D. President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 

Q: What set of behaviors do you associate with leadership and what are ways in which early childhood educators can develop them?

  • Live with integrity and lead by example: create standards of excellence for others to follow. Establish guiding principles about how customers, constituents, colleagues should be treated.
  • Achieve small wins. According to Marian Wright Edelman, “we must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.”
  • Inspire others to achieve all that they can be and build a great team. Recognize the contributions of others and celebrate accomplishments.
  • Learn all you can about your industry.  I still read every day about current early childhood research because I want to stay up to date on what’s happening in our field.
  • Be careful who you look up to. You will move in the direction of the people you associate with!

Q: Who or what was most influential for you as you developed your leadership skills?

It’s  really important in life to have mentors, who I also like to call “sheroes.” I’ve been lucky to have a number of sheroes in my life including:

  • Patricia Jane Small, my mother; Mamie Lee McClain, my maternal grandmother; Wilma Terrell, my paternal grandmother.
  •  Jackie Ross, former Director of Utopia Child Care Center.
  • Janet Hicklin, former Faculty MATC Early Childhood Associate Degree Program.
  • Jessye N. Adams, former South East Wisconsin Associate Chief of Day Care Licensing
  • Pat Franke, former South East Wisconsin Chief of Day Care Licensing
  • Barbara Bowman, former Director of Early Childhood Education for Chicago Public Schools and Co-Founder, Erikson Institute

Being a mentor is another facet of leadership and I’ve had the good fortune to know and to advise many talented women. “Weeds will never grow back”  as long as these women are in the field teaching, directing, supervising and leading! Joining a professional organization like WECA can be a key step in developing leadership skills. The year has just begun and growth opportunities await you.

Ann McClain Terrell  is a long time friend of WECA and served as its Executive Director. She is Director of Early Childhood Education for the Milwaukee Public Schools and has 40 years’ professional experience in the field of early childhood education. Ann was recently elected to the NAEYC Governing Board and will serve a four year term through 2017. 

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