May 19, 2023

What Early Childhood Education Looks Like: A Conversation with Nia Grace

In our “What ECE Looks Like” series, we will celebrate rich, diverse stories and show how educators and leaders in the industry have worked to create change.

At Early Learning Academies, we honor and celebrate the many ways people find themselves in a career in early childhood education (ECE). There’s no “right” way to become an ECE professional—people take many paths to get to this profession and decide it’s the right one for them for many different reasons.

This week, we spoke to Nia Grace, Regional Operations Manager for Early Learning Academies. Nia started her ECE career in the classroom after her first child was born. From there, her career evolved in big, exciting, and unexpected ways.

Today, she helps support and manage 14 childcare centers in the coastal area of North Carolina. We sat down to ask her about her rich career in ECE.  

Can you tell us a little bit about your career before ECE?

After I finished my associate degree in general studies (I wanted to finish my degree in Elementary Education), my spouse received orders to North Carolina. I worked in the food service industry as a waitress working nights and weekends—the complete opposite of my spouse’s schedule. After I had my first child, I wanted to align my schedule the best I could with him. I needed a career path that offered opportunity for growth while also providing flexibility for a parent with young children.

This is when I started working in ECE. This also eventually led to me going back for my bachelor’s degree through a hybrid school of attending in person one night a week and classes online at night. This allowed my spouse to support me through my educational journey of finally finishing my BA degree but now in ECE.  

 How did you first get introduced to early childhood education as a career?

 I was introduced to early childhood after I had my oldest child. When he was 6 months old, I wanted him to be where I worked. A friend of mine was already working at a center and put in a recommendation for me to be hired.

What drew you to pursue ECE for your own profession?

 Soon after I started working as an early childhood teacher, I found my love and passion for working with children and seeing them grow, learn, and explore their environments. After a while I realized that this was going to be my forever career and I wanted to go back to college to get my BA degree and eventually my teaching license.

What do you love most about being in ECE?

What I love most about working in ECE is spending time with the children. Also, as a supervisor I love to pour in and teach my staff the things that I know to help them grow to their fullest potential as Directors.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone interested in pursuing a career in ECE?

Always keep in mind that you are here for the children and sometimes the only positive interaction with an adult comes from us. As my career evolved from the classroom into a director role and now an area manager role, the thing I value the most continues to be having a positive impact on young children in their most impressionable, precious years.  

Looking for more stories about ECE professionals? Check out these previous posts in our “What ECE Looks Like” series: