Unlocking Potential in Young Children

Marcia Carlile’s pockets are often filled with treasures at the end of the day.

A dandelion picked by a 4-year-old in foster care who finally trusted her enough to give her a gift.

A picture drawn by a 5-year-old who was unable to put into words the confusion about his parents’ divorce but, with her encouragement, illustrated his feelings on paper.

A rock from an angry 4-year-old she encouraged to make a safe choice by not throwing it at a peer on the playground.

They’re simple reminders for Marcia, one of the veteran PEP Early Childhood Plus consultant/trainers, that her work matters. They’re reminders that children need trusting adults to help them learn and grow.

Thanks to generous support from United Way of Greater Cleveland, Marcia has proven to be a critical resource for Euclid City Schools. Each day, she empowers the teachers and support staff at the district’s Early Learning Center with strategies that help them respond to children’s challenging behaviors and ultimately turn difficult situations into teachable moments.

The work focuses on the proper use of Conscious Discipline – a comprehensive social-emotional learning program. Conscious Discipline is designed to help the teachers and children embrace self-regulation.

“I enjoy going to work because I know in my mind and heart that by assisting the teaching teams, I am helping young children learn and practice the skills needed to become strong, compassionate, resilient individuals in the future,” Marcia said. “When I go to work, I come home having learned much more than I taught or modeled that day.”

The results are clear. More students can express and manage their emotions. Students are using “safe spaces” in their classrooms where they practice the skill of composure. They can identify actions as being hurtful to others in their classroom and – with guidance – can discern alternative actions that are helpful.

“The biggest change I’ve seen has been in the teachers,” said Sanya Henley, principal of Euclid’s Early Learning Center. “Once you change the adults’ behavior, the students will follow suit.”

Christina Kwasniak, one of the preschool teachers, said Marcia has been a great sounding board for her and her colleagues.

”If I have a concern about a student’s behavior, she always has a ton of ideas ready to go and many have worked,” she said. “She’s brought a whole different perspective to the classroom.”