Two Nebraska counties, Madison and Dakota, are taking steps toward creating a more equitable early childhood care and education environment where providers and Spanish-speaking families engage in a mutual journey of discovery. On Saturday, April 24, from 9:00-10:00 a.m. the counties will hold back-to-back Zoom sessions, one in English and one in Spanish, to inspire conversations about the bilingual experience in childcare. The event, titled “Supporting Spanish Speakers in Early Childhood,” offers providers insight into Latinx cultures and invites Spanish-speaking families to better understand the requirements of the American educational system and to engage actively with the providers who care for their children.
The event is the creation of Abagail Gustad, who knows what it’s like to need extended help from Nebraska’s early childhood care and education system. After receiving her associates degree in early childhood education, Gustad worked for some time in the ECCE system before taking an 11-year hiatus. But when her daughter was born and needed the assistance of the Early Development Network, Gustad realized that there was more she could do with her training than teach. Gustad became an Advocate for in-home support with Healthy Families and later joined Nebraska Children’s Rooted in Relationships as a Trainer of Trainers.
In her position as Early Childhood Community Coordinator (ECCC) for Dakota County, Gustad received community well-being funds for bilingual support in her area and immediately knew she wanted to “dive in with a project.” She gathered three providers in her community who had bilingual staff and asked them where to begin. Gustad said that “they really felt there needs to be some cultural inclusion training.” She describes the difficulty of an atmosphere where Spanish-speaking children enter childcare and “come into an environment where there’s nothing that reminds them of their culture.” This creates a barrier for children and their families.
She joined forces with Amanda Smith, the ECCC for Madison County, who is raising two bilingual children. She immediately saw the value for her county where there are no Spanish-speaking providers but lots of families who need bilingual support. Smith sees the value of the event as not only for families, but also for the providers who educate bilingual children. As she puts it, we are “giving so many important opportunities to providers.” They not only learn valuable information that helps them better connect with Spanish-speaking families, but they also receive free materials and a credit-hour of continuing education.
The event will be led by Angelina Fregoso, a trainer who has been a translator, aide, a Parents Interacting with Infants (PIWI) facilitator, and an educator who can offer both audiences the perspective of a lived bilingual experience. Providers will learn some Spanish words, have the opportunity to receive toys connected to Latinx cultures, and hear stories of what it means to engage with a system that isn’t designed to speak to Spanish experience. Families will learn more about the methods of preparing their children for the American educational system and how they can use provider input to help them work at home with their children and support their children’s progress in a care environment.
Gustad sees the event as a “soft-opening to start a conversation about cultural inclusion.” She’d like to see the program build and spread to other counties in the state. Her dream is that the event would blossom into a greater sense of multiculturalism where we can hold conversations about the richness of cultural diversity and share cultural knowledge from both the provider perspective and those living it.
For more information or to register, please email: Dakota County: email@example.com; or
Madison County: firstname.lastname@example.org.