14:16 PM

UHCL prof wins coveted Teacher Educator of the Year award

Each year, the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children honors individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the field of early care and education in Texas. This year, University of Houston-Clear Lake's Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education Preeti Jain is being honored with the TXAEYC Teacher Educator of the Year award.

TXAEYC, an affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, is a professional membership organization that promotes high-quality learning for children birth through age 8, by connecting early childhood practice, policy and research.

"I was thrilled to get the award and even to have been nominated," Jain said. "I saw the letters the students had written and it brought me to tears. It validates the work we are doing here at UH-Clear Lake."

Jain said she transitioned from being an early childhood educator herself to become a teacher educator partly because of her exposure to research. "The research showed how critical the early childhood years are, yet at the same time, the early childhood industry, particularly in the birth-age 5 sector, does not have the consistent requirements for teachers to have higher education qualifications," she said. "I became a teaching assistant during my graduate studies and began 'teaching the teachers.' I realized this way, I can ultimately reach more children. If I were teaching children in a classroom, I'd only be reaching those kids, but when I teach teachers, the reach goes much further."

Jain said that often, early childhood education in the birth-age 5 sector is treated like babysitting, but neuroscientific and genetic research shows the foundational importance of early childhood experiences. "Early care program teachers must be respected and know how important their work is," she said. "I want to advocate for those practices as well as because we see a lot of support for our K-12 teachers, but not as much for the teachers for the earlier years."

She added that when she came to UHCL, she conceptualized the Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Care and Education, which is one of the few degrees that focuses on curriculum and pedagogy in those early years, from birth through age 8.

"I'm proud of that," she said. "We have an excellent program here at UHCL. I have colleagues that inspire and motivate me because they're passionate as I am about the education of young children. We are preparing people who are spending a great deal of time with young children and setting the foundation, because developmental gains in those years can define trajectory for later years."

UHCL's College of Education Dean Joan Pedro said, "Dr. Jain is one of our outstanding early childhood teacher educators whose passion for her field is evident in all that she has accomplished in her program and for the College of Education. We are very proud of her achievements, and this award is testimony to her being named an outstanding teacher educator."

Learn more about UHCL's Early Childhood Education program online.