Spotlight on Amy Kay

Director, Child Development Lab at the McPhaul Center, The University of Georgia

Amy KayWhy did you become a GAYC member?

Being a GAYC member gives me access to information on a state level and allows for connectivity among other GAYC members. I also want to support our state affiliate and the work GAYC does for early learning professionals across Georgia.

Tell us about your work with young children.

I taught two-year olds for three years, then went into the public school system in Athens-Clarke County. While there, I taught Pre-K for five years and then kindergarten for the next five. Now, as director of the Child Development Lab at the McPhaul Center, my work focuses more on engaging with adults (teachers, parents, colleagues), but I still get to engage with young children on a daily basis.

What is your favorite part of your ECE job and why?

For as long as I’ve been in Early Childhood Education, one thing has proven true: No two days are ever the same. There is some excitement in the unpredictability that is always part of working with young children and their families. Also, the countless instances of smiling and laughter, whether it’s from some beautiful insight/explanation a child gives you or the wonderful hugs they so freely share, the overall happiness just percolates through the job.

Amy Kay 2Share one way a child has inspired you.

Charles, a Pre-K student at the time, and I were walking outside one day. It was close to the end of fall and most of the leaves had fallen off the trees. As we walked, Charles stopped, looked at the tree, and said, “Ms. Kay, that tree looks . . .” As he paused, I thought I knew what he was going to say: “That tree looks naked.” But he didn’t; after a few more seconds he said, “Ms. Kay, that tree looks bald.” He tilted his head to view it slightly sideways, looked at me and smiled, and we continued walking to the playground, in the direction of the bald tree. That brief moment, that shift in perspective, has stayed with me and given me inspiration. One thing I am regularly reminded of while interacting with and listening to children is that there is always a different way to see things, which leads me to strive to remember to give consideration to another perspective, not just the one I have.

What is your dream for the future of early childhood education?

My dream for the future would be that every child will receive the quality early learning experience that each deserves; expectations, education levels, and salaries will increase for early childhood professionals; there will be an overall appreciation, respect and understanding of how critical this time is in a child’s life and others will value the work of early childhood teachers. In my dream, all of this takes place across socioeconomic lines, race differences, accessibility/inaccessibility to resources, and any other barriers–it all becomes something greater than us–where ALL children learn and grow and thrive.

What’s your favorite book and why?

Just one?!?!?! As I think about the books that immediately come to mind, they seem to be books that show diversity, acceptance, facing challenges, or challenging “norms” as well as some component of empowerment. For children’s book–probably Robert Munsch’s The Paperbag Princess because I love the disruption of the gender roles and twist on the cliché fairy-tale ending, plus it’s a great book to read aloud (to children or adults). For professional reading–Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children because she influenced me so significantly in my work in the classroom with my students and their families. For personal reading–Mary Beth Chapman’s Choosing to SEE because the timing of when this book came to me and the wisdom and perspective it contained was perfect!