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 Getting to Know SDCOE: Early Education Specialists Shape Young Minds

SDCOE is filled with teams dedicated to delivering and supporting the best in education, and that includes experts in teaching the youngest of students.

"Before elementary school, children need that foundation of quality-enriched education to ensure future educational and social-emotional success," Early Education Specialist Jodie Peebles said. "It's less costly than the greater price of trying to fix things later down the road."

Peebles is part of SDCOE's eight-member team of early education specialists who support the Quality Preschool Initiative (QPI) and the California State Preschool Program block grant. Led by QPI coordinators Theresa Kurczewski and Jena Kubiak, the team coaches QPI agencies' directors and administrators to improve the quality of their programs.

The early education specialists are based regionally, and spend most of their time in the field coaching at early childhood education sites in school districts, nonprofit agencies, and higher-education child development centers. The specialists visit two to three sites a day for two-hour coaching sessions.

QPI, which is funded by First 5 San Diego and the California Department of Education, supports preschool programs in their goals to improve the quality of early learning and meet the needs of children and families. That is more important than ever because research has proven that more than 80 percent of a child's brain is developed in the first five years of life.

"We know more about how young children's brains are shaped by their early experiences than we ever have before," Early Education Specialist Nathan Johnston said.

The team members say they love that they get to do work that supports and coaches educators in making lasting improvements that positively impact the quality of care and education that young children receive.


Meet the specialists:

Doris Flores-Roldan joined SDCOE in August 2015. This year, she is working with three agencies from Oceanside to Chula Vista, coaching 12 program and site directors. "I am very passionate about working in the field of early education because it lays the foundation for future school years. One of my favorite parts of the job is the opportunity to build relationships, create partnerships, and learn from each other."

Roxana Jalali joined SDCOE in August 2014. She is working with eight agencies, from Borrego Springs south to the Mountain Empire Unified School District. "I find it imperative to help children build their social and emotional skills in order for them to be successful in school and in life. I want to make a difference and help children overcome any obstacles or circumstances they may have. I also enjoy collaborating and gaining insight from directors and teachers to continue finding creative ways of improving early education."

Nathan Johnston joined SDCOE in August. He is working with a partner serving two agencies in El Cajon and San Diego. "I am passionate about early care and education because so much happens to shape children's brains in their early years. Through intentional interactions facilitated by their first teachers, children learn to use language to connect ideas and express their feelings using the same social, emotional, and cognitive skills they will need to make it out of poverty themselves, or help others do the same."

Kristen Krauss joined SDCOE in August, and is based in North County. She works with five agencies from Leucadia to Fallbrook. Krauss said she loves that her job has an impact on the quality of early education. "Not only can we help one classroom or school improve the daily experience for a child, but we have the opportunity to raise the standards across the county."

Dezerie Martinez joined SDCOE in February 2016. She is working with four agencies at multiple sites this year, coaching about 15 administrators. "It's hard to deny the importance of early childhood education. Early childhood education teachers truly are brain architects, shaping our future generation. For every role I've held within the field — from teacher to director and from researcher to advocate — one thing that holds strong is the importance of early childhood education. I love that I get to see teaching practices that promote high-quality education for our youngest and most susceptible learners."

Karen Matsuda joined SDCOE in 2012. She has served various agencies in South County, and this year will work with preschools in San Diego Unified, Coronado Unified, and San Ysidro. "I am passionate about the importance of ensuring healthy social-emotional and physical development in young children. I am dedicated to teaching, coaching, and facilitating to provide QPI participants with the ability to self-reflect and understand how and why to promote social-emotional skills in young children."

Jodie Peebles joined SDCOE in 2012, working for four years as an early education support provider before becoming a specialist this year. She's based in South County, supporting four agencies with sites in San Diego,  El Cajon, Spring Valley, La Mesa, National City, and Chula Vista. "I have been in the early education field for 25 years, and I am still passionate about continuous research in brain development. We play a large role in shaping the brains of young children by providing quality experiences in the early years, which give children successful outcomes for the rest of their lives."

Dana Weevie joined SDCOE in 2011. She serves four agencies, including a large Head Start program. "I enjoy coaching and using reflective supervision, and watching the change that happens. I am fortunate to have this unique opportunity to be able help site directors build their capacity in a strength-based way."