Published: July 25, 2017
“When you hear Pacific Oaks, you hear early childhood development,” says Simpson, a 2005 M.A. graduate in Human Development and Family Studies.
Along with a recommendation from her junior college mentor, the college’s reputation was one of the main reasons that Simpson chose Pacific Oaks.
“The names go on and on of people who have graduated from Pacific Oaks,” Simpson says. “For example, Louise Derman-Sparks, who is the author of the anti-bias curriculum. Hearing the stories, you want to be here. To have the opportunity to actually go to Pacific Oaks was just amazing.”
“I wanted to have an impact on advocacy, working with young children and their families,” Simpson says. “I could’ve gotten my degree in Early Childhood Development, but I didn’t want to do that. I pursued Human Development because I desired to understand holistically the whole lifespan. I wanted to understand not just growth but how we develop in more of a whole view instead of a bird’s-eye view. I wanted to expand my insight.”
Her interest in children ages zero to 3 transitioned into a pursuit of teaching other aspiring early childhood educators. Her teaching resume includes being an adjunct professor (Chaffey College, Pacific Oaks College), a mentor coordinator (California Early Childhood Mentor Program), a part-time instructor (UC Davis and Victor Valley College ), a full-time instructor (Citrus College), and an infant-toddler specialist (Partners for Quality, West-Ed).
In addition to teaching, for the past 13 years, Simpson has also been a keynote speaker and workshop presenter for leaders in childhood development. At the end of each of her speaking events, she gives attendees a call to action. In one of her more recent speaking events in June, she asked attendees to “create an action plan.”
“I gave this group of ECE leaders a form to fill out,” Simpson says. “And I said, ‘Let’s think about where are you on your leadership journey.’ I wanted to know if they felt like they were at the beginning of creating their vision for their program. Were they ready to share their vision with the team? If you’re a leader, you have to have a vision. And if you don’t have a clear place where you want to go, how are you going to lead others to that destination? Adding value and equipping people is really important to me. Those are my three e’s. You need to educate. You need to equip. And you need to empower.”
Her own insight includes invigorating people into opening themselves up to anti-bias curriculum and multiculturalism. But she doesn’t just want to talk about these topics while sitting behind a desk. She’s taken on one of her own PO instructor’s initiatives to bring groups out into the community.
As a PO student, one of the assignments that impacted her most within a course was going out into the community to meet different people. In one of her HD classes, she and her peers visited an “eco-friendly, communal shared living space” that educated people about why cars should be used less often. She also visited an LGBTQ community resource center; an African-American church, where a charter school was also located; and a California-based business called Mama’s International Tamales, where individual business owners can cook and then legally sell tamales on the street.
That course was so memorable for her that she then chose to teach it with a few tweaks.
“I wanted my students to also do ethnographic studies where they went into the community, found out what the community actually needed, and then came back and then decided on a community action plan,” Simpson says. “We had an immigration speaker come in when the hot news discussion was about immigration. We also discussed hot topics such as recidivism and students were encouraged to visit the Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Cafe, where Reverend Boyle works with incarcerated youth and brings people back into the community. I wanted my students to gain new perspectives.”
Although Simpson wears many hats as an ECE instructor, a public speaker, a mentor, and a volunteer (Southern California Women’s Department J3), one common goal that brings it altogether is value.
“For me, being a teacher, trainer, and a public speaker is really just adding value in any setting where I’m asked to be—whether it’s in the classroom or training infant/toddler teachers. The question I am always asking myself is am I adding value? If I’m adding value, then all three roles are positive for me. I can’t let any of them go because they all add value for myself and other people. It’s really important to me that I continue in this capacity.”
Simpson’s book “Breakroom Conversations: Talking Points to Help Teachers Reflect, Communicate and Establish Meaningful Relationships” is scheduled to release mid-August 2017.