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 Early Educators Embrace Cultural Competency

preschool photo collage chula vista​When the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD) recently began implementing its “Committed to Diversity” policy, its Early Education Programs executive director took notice.

Rita Palet saw the policy -- which focuses on creating working and learning environments that free from discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying -- aligned perfectly with the work her staff already was focused on through the Teaching Pyramid social-emotional framework.

After discussions with her leadership team, Palet decided to go deeper with her department’s commitment to diversity. Over the past two program years, Palet has worked with SDCOE Early Education Specialist Jodie Peebles to develop a plan to support preschool staff with trainings and coaching focused on cultural competency, through the Quality Preschool Initiative (QPI).

SDCOE Early Education team members provided trainings on four topics: Cultural Competency; Becoming a Culturally Responsive Practitioner; Family Partnerships and Culture; and Cultivating a Culture of Gender Equity in Early Childhood Classrooms.

These trainings began with a focus on learning about the family lives of the children served in the CVESD early education programs, and developing a deep understanding of and respect for families’ cultures. The staff learned that in order to fully understand and embrace others, they must first be aware of their own culture and its influence on their practice.

With her team, Palet developed a plan to continue work to implement district’s new policy with strategies learned through their cultural competency training. Among the ways she supported implementation of cultural competency was by growing the preschool classroom libraries with children’s books that represent diverse families and respect for others.

“It has been wonderful to hear teachers having discussions around these topics and seeing the students excited to share about their families and lifestyles,” Palet said.

With support from the San Diego First 5-funded Quality Preschool Initiative and the SDCOE coaching team, the Chula Vista district’s Early Education department will continue to move forward in building cultural competency into their work with young children and their families. Teachers will continue to implement strategies learned, and the leadership team will continue to empower their team to move forward.

“We have much more work to do, but we are on a positive journey,” Palet said.