Love What You Do: Allison Long’s Journey from the Classroom to Childcare Operations
Working in Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a rewarding journey with many opportunities. It might begin with one destination in mind, but the path has the potential to lead to unexpected yet very fulfilling career opportunities. ECE journeys often start off as a temporary job during college, for instance, but for those special individuals who love to help young children learn, it can turn into a long, impactful career with a lot of growth.
Doing What You Love
For Allison Long, Curriculum & Training Specialist at Early Learning Academies, the journey began at a moment of indecision during college.
“I was trying different majors,” Long explained. “I tried business and nursing, but nothing felt like a good fit. Then I remembered that I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. My first job ever was working as a birthday party host at a children’s museum in South Florida, which I loved.”
As Long thought about it more, she couldn’t shake the desire to work with children. After all, isn’t it important to pursue one’s passion? In the end, she decided to make the leap.
“I decided to take a break from school to work in a childcare center full-time to see if it was something that I really liked doing because that’s always been very important to me,” Long said. “I want to enjoy my work. We spend way too much of our lives working to not enjoy it. Life’s too short.”
Long started in a 1-year-old room as a lead teacher and just fell in love with it. She enjoyed interacting with the children and their parents, charting milestones, and watching concepts take hold in young minds—every part of it was a joy. She went on to get her CDA and Montessori credentials.
Up for a New Challenge
After completing college and earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, circumstances brought Long from South Florida to the Panhandle. With the move came a new opportunity: Assistant Director at a Kid’s Discovery childcare center. The role came as a surprise, but presented a new challenge.
“I thought I was interviewing for a teacher position,” Long explained. “I was extremely surprised when I was offered the Assistant Director role. But the Regional Director got me excited about it and helped me feel ready for the challenge.”
The new role was full of fun and interesting challenges. It really opened Long’s eyes to the many hats center leadership wear.
“They literally did anything that was needed in a center; Directors are superheroes,” Long said. “I truly believe Center Directors have to be anything the center needs on a given day—cooks, teachers, maintenance people, you name it. They are superstars.”
The Joy of Creativity
After a few years as an Assistant Director and a Center Director, Long was presented with the opportunity to try something new: Curriculum & Training Specialist for ELA. This meant stepping away from the center side of things and focusing instead on operations. The job would be a big shift: she’d be working from home, creating activities and curriculum for preschool classrooms for ELA’s national network of childcare centers. Long accepted the challenge and fell in love again with this new role.
“My job is amazing,” Long said. “I get to think about and create activities that are going to help make teachers’ days easier. My job is so creative. Teachers are probably the most creative group of humans on the planet—they do so much with so little!”
The new role has been yet another unexpected stop on Long’s ECE journey, and even though she misses certain aspects of being in the childcare center—mainly the connections with the students and their families—she wouldn’t have it any other way.