Heather Harding, Child Development Coordinator for the Caroline County Early Head Start, was recognized at the January Board of Education meeting for completing the Maryland Early Childhood Leadership Program (MECLP).
The program is offered through the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and the Sherman Center, and is a workforce initiative designed to accelerate cross-sector leadership in early childhood. MECLP’s vision is to develop and support strong leaders who are catalyzing positive change and will significantly improve school readiness and related outcomes for early learners, particularly disadvantaged and vulnerable children and their families. After acceptance into Cohort II of this highly competitive program, Ms. Harding completed a year of training and a culminating project and presentation. Her presentation was entitled “Theory of Change: Increasing Participation in Parenting Education Through Community Partnerships.”
Ms. Harding began her career with Caroline in May of 2015 as a Child Development Assistant, later becoming a Lead Teacher. In April of 2019, she was named to her present position. Ms. Harding utilized the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Professional Development fund to earn her AA in Early Childhood Development from Chesapeake College, followed by earning her Bachelors degree from Ashford University, also in Early Childhood Education. The MECLP earned her three credits towards a Masters Degree.
Supervisor Tearesa French told the Board that she had appreciated watching Ms. Harding’s progression through the years, and looked forward to her becoming more involved at the state level with other early childhood programs. Ms. French also noted that there were only 13 participants accepted in the MECLP Cohort II, with Ms. Harding being one of nine that actually completed the program.
At the Board meeting, Ms. Harding said, “‘Zero to three is the place to be and elementary is where it is at’, which means if we are doing our job effectively, laying a foundation, the children will be ready and the elementary school (or next program) will see the impact and difference we make. This applies to families as well.” She explained that the premise of her change project is to empower families to understand their child, themselves, their role as parent, and how they can impact their child’s education and the community moving forward.