WILL Pressroom

WILL Education hosts inaugural Early Childhood Champions Dinner

Bethany Patten headshot

Bethany Patten, Workforce development Policy Director at the Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development Bethany Patten

WILL Education will honor early childhood educators and volunteers from central Illinois at the inaugural Early Childhood Champions Dinner on May 23 at the CityView Banquet and Meeting Center in downtown Champaign.

"Brain research has shown the foundation for lifelong learning is created during those precious years from birth through age eight. Professionals in early childhood play a crucial role and have a huge responsibility in the development of our children,” said Kimberlie Kranich, director of engagement and educational outreach at Illinois Public Media. “We want to honor those professionals, recognize their volunteers, and raise awareness of the need for more funding to hire and retain early childhood educators.”

The dinner is free to practitioners in the field of early childhood education and will include live music by a group of youth and adults from the Banks, Bridgewater Lewis Fine Arts Academy. The event will also feature Bethany Patten, workforce development policy director at the Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, who will deliver the keynote address.

“Valued, supported, and well-compensated educators are the foundation of high-quality early care and education in Illinois,” said Patten. “Whether they are working in homes, centers, or schools, the relationships early childhood educators form with children lay the groundwork for future relationships and learning across a child’s life. If we as a state can help early childhood educators to be successful, we will help young children to succeed as well.”

Patten co-authored “Voices From the Frontlines of Early Learning: 2017 Illinois Early Childhood Workforce Survey Report,” the first statewide assessment of early learning hiring and retention experiences across funding streams in Illinois. The report concluded that turnover rates are high in the profession—which can be detrimental to both children and families—and the lack of funding for adequate compensation is the greatest barrier to hiring and retention.

This event marks the beginning of a multi-year effort by WILL Education to recognize early childhood professionals in central Illinois, raise public awareness of the critical work they do, and highlight what research shows are critical steps needed to move forward.