January 19, 2024

Follow Your Passion: A Conversation with Tricia Quinn

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 is 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 reasons. 

We sat down with Tricia Quinn, Director of Operations for Early Learning Academies, to discuss what led her to this career journey and the observations she has had in her 30-year career in ECE.  

What first drew you to early childhood education?  

I have always loved working with young children. I started as a babysitter when I was young and continued throughout high school. I am passionate about early education because it can have such a positive impact on the trajectory of a student’s education throughout their lifetime. The first five years of life are the most important time in a person’s brain development and we, as early educators, play such a significant role in that development.   

What is your favorite thing about visiting your early learning centers?  

I love seeing teachers who are engaged with the children in the classroom and creating fun learning experiences. Hearing and seeing happy children as I walk through the center are a wonderful indication that learning is happening.  

How did you get from the ECE classroom to the Director of Operations for ELA?  

In college I earned a BA degree in Child Development and worked with infants and toddlers primarily. I then earned my MA degree in Educational Psychology, focusing on Early Childhood. I became a director early on in my career and then moved into various regional leadership roles for twenty plus years prior to joining ELA in 2022.   

What is the biggest change you have noticed in your career in ECE?  

COVID has had a significant impact on our industry.  In my 30 years in ECE, nothing I have seen has had a greater impact on the field. Both on our ECE teachers as well as the impact on children’s development. Many children who would have been learning and thriving in an early childhood program during this time missed key development phases and are now having to “catch up” in their learning, both academically and socially. We have had to change our way of teaching basic skills. Also, the turnover rate for ECE professionals has hit an all-time high since COVID. It is more important than ever to work closely with our teaching teams to keep them engaged and growing professionally. We need them to be successful so that our children can also succeed. 

What advice do you have for someone entering the ECE field?   

Working in the ECE field is not just a job or a paycheck. ECE is a passionate profession. If you have a passion for working with children, making a positive impact in your community, and want to make a career of it, then begin by enrolling in child development classes. Start in an Assistant Teacher position and find a Lead Teacher who can help you learn along the way. Create a career path for yourself so you can plan out your future. ECE is a rewarding career journey if you stick with it and realize the impact you can have on future generations of leaders.  

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