Playing a Critical Role in Child Development

March 31, 2021

Yvonne Gay

A portrait of a young lady.
Sela Taylor ’15
Photo credit: Courtesy of Sela Taylor

Being an early childhood educator means playing a critical role in a child’s development. The industry needs more people who love to see children grow, says Sela Taylor ’15.

Taylor majored in psychology at Oberlin College and interned at the New England Center for Children, a Southborough, Massachusetts-based facility that provides comprehensive services for children with autism. While at the center, Taylor was instructed on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a form of therapy that focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as social skills, communication, and reading, as well as fine motor dexterity and domestic capabilities. ABA was applied in Taylor’s one-on-one work with autistic children under the age of nine. She taught everyday life skills such as tying shoes, participating in group activities, and object identification.

Today, Taylor works as a teacher at Bright Horizons, an early childhood education center in Westborough, Massachusetts, that emphasizes early childhood education. She attends to the needs of children ages four years and younger, creates a weekly curriculum to enhance their development, and documents and evaluates their progress. “I knew I wanted to work with children in some way, but I didn’t think I would love teaching as much as I do until I started working here [seven years ago],” she says. 

Taylor says children in the age group she teaches have a desire to investigate and learn, which makes the path to keeping them inspired and engaged less difficult. However, learning how to handle challenging behaviors has been one of her biggest hurdles. “We see a lot of things such as biting. Although this is a typical behavior for young children, we have to teach them that this isn’t OK and that there are other ways to channel their anger or frustration,” she explains. 

Another challenge was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many educators, Taylor says the early stages of the pandemic required she and her colleagues to relearn how to interact with their students. 

After Bright Horizons was forced to shut down, once a week teachers conducted Zoom check-ins with their classes and read to the children. The center reopened five months later to provide childcare to working families and so teachers could offer better development skills. 

Taylor encourages Oberlin students who are considering a career in early childhood education to “not be afraid to try it. [Working with this] young age can seem daunting but it is such a fun, exciting age. I also hear a lot of people are afraid of becoming an early educator because they don’t want to be considered ‘just a babysitter.’ We are just as much educators as the teachers who teach school-age children. These ages are so critical to development and we need more people who love to see children grow and become the best they can be.”

As she progresses in her career, Taylor hopes to one day serve as an educational coordinator, where she can assist other teachers with learning and advancing in their own careers.

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