Voices of Early Childhood Educators

by Susan Bernheimer (Author)
©2016 Textbook XV, 133 Pages
Series: Childhood Studies, Volume 6


Voices of Early Childhood Educators presents powerful, living stories of early childhood students and practitioners. Susan Bernheimer clearly shows the importance of their stories for understanding the challenges now facing our field, including valuable insights into new forms of resilience and development. Bernheimer invites college students and their instructors into an eye-opening journey with early childhood professionals today.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Advance praise for Voices of Early Childhood Educators
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Child Care: An Institution at Risk
  • Chapter Two: Illuminating Hidden Worlds
  • Chapter Three: The Reflective Practitioner
  • Chapter Four: The Long Reach of Our Stories
  • Chapter Five: Tales of the Future
  • Chapter Six: Paths to Leadership
  • Chapter Seven: My Journey as an Instructor
  • Chapter Eight: A Changing World
  • References
  • Index
  • Series index

← viii | ix →


My deepest gratitude goes to the many early childhood educators whom I have had the privilege to know as students and colleagues. Their stories of courage and perseverance in the face of personal and professional challenges have inspired me to find an approach to education that honors their hard-earned wisdom. The importance of the stories in this book goes beyond particular events. Their gifts lay in the extraordinary honesty and invaluable insights they offer of personal and professional transformation.

My work of developing and implementing a new approach to preparing early childhood educators could not have taken place without the support of institutions of higher education. I want to thank the Los Angeles Community Colleges for allowing me the freedom to explore an alternative approach to education, thus enabling me to embrace and work with the many hidden gifts of our nontraditional students. I am indebted to Pacific Oaks College for supporting my use of pedagogical practice that extends far beyond the parameters of traditional education. It was a testament to their commitment of upholding a mission of ← ix | x → social justice, which honors each student’s life as an integral part of the learning process.

The concept upon which the storytelling practice in this book is based was built on the foundation of other early childhood educators who stepped outside accepted academic beliefs. I want to thank Elizabeth Jones, Margie Carter, Janet Gonzalez-Mena, Louise Derman-Sparks, and Lillian Katz for their insightful work in the field. I am grateful to the work and writings of Paulo Freire, which prompted me to create an empowering approach to education while teaching students from impoverished communities. Further enhancing my professional growth has been the annual Reconceptualizing Early Childhood International Conferences, which have provided a forum for ideas and practice at the cutting edge of our field. These have been greatly enhanced by my professional collaboration with Tim Sundeen.

The writing of this book could not have taken place without the dedicated help and support of others. Elizabeth (Betty) Jones combined her unique ability to be playful and fierce in her ongoing feedback, reading chapter after chapter, till we came to a place that pleased us both. My very good friend Jacqueline Green sat by my side over many years as the book unfolded, listening, offering brilliant insights, arguing about ideas, and always extending her support, as I hammered away at putting it all on paper. Who could have dreamed that a friendship that began in kindergarten would continue to blossom many decades later?

I would like to thank Anne Wood for her exceptional editing skills that have made such a difference to the quality of both my books. My dear friend Doris Lora also took on the role of using her remarkable editing skills with my completed manuscript. I could not have finished this book without the support and hard work of Frances Schireson, who formatted the references, and wrote and offered further editing feedback. I want to thank Jerry Cowart for his artistic talent, skill, and patience in working with me in formulating a design for the cover of this book.

Fortunately, during my long hours alone while writing this book, I was surrounded by a circle of precious friends. Thank you Jennifer Glaser, Vivian Rothstein, Sara Shane, Marsha Epstein, Stephanie ← x | xi → Pollard, and Donna Lambson for all your kindness, patience, and support. Beyond Los Angeles, but close to my heart, I want to thank my longtime friend Emmy Davis. In remembrance of two dear friends who have passed on, Eve Triffo and Sara Exposito, I am deeply grateful to have had you in my life.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my children, David and Adina, who are now two of my closest friends as adults. Liam, my grandson, is only six, but he is truly my very good friend. I am lucky to have two loving and supportive siblings, Judy and Ben. And, I am forever grateful to have been raised by my parents, Leonard Schireson and Bea Wartell, who laid a foundation that honors life and family.

To those of you who are taking the time to read and ponder the ideas in this book, I extend my deepest gratitude. I can be reached at sbern21@gmail.com or via my website: www.susanbernheimer.com. ← xi | xii →

← xii | xiii →


Once upon a time the world of human beings was wild and rural and tribal. People lived in small communities—some nomadic, some settled, all family-based. They spoke different languages and developed different ceremonies. Sometimes they had trading relationships with the communities nearby; sometimes they attacked them on sight. Being different was a threat to the way things are supposed to be, for our people.

But many, many centuries later the whole world is living with the accumulated outcomes of endless human curiosity: What’s this? How can I make it different? Invention, urbanization, technology—all these have obliterated most of the tidiness of living only with people like us. Like it or not, we repeatedly encounter diversity in its very many forms—people who don’t talk like us, dress like us, believe what we believe, raise their children by our values. We can’t even see or hear or touch many of these people—they’re only part of our virtual environment, populating the World Wide Web. Exciting—but anxiety producing. How do we know what to do next? ← xiii | xiv →

Throughout human history, most young children have been cared for by members of their families, who had a lifelong investment in their well-being. They watched and participated in the activities of adults and older children, in their homes and neighborhoods. By being there, they learned their communities’ stories, both literal—day-to-day—and mythical.


XV, 133
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (July)
Early Childhood education Child care Stories of early childhood students educator Early childhood students
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XV, 133 pp.

Biographical notes

Susan Bernheimer (Author)

Susan Bernheimer is an educator, researcher, and trainer on contemporary issues in early childhood education, and formerly a member of the Human Development faculty at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, California. Dr. Bernheimer taught early childhood teacher preparation to impoverished college students for over ten years. She is the author of New Possibilities for Early Childhood Education: Stories from our Nontraditional Students (Lang, 2003).


Title: Voices of Early Childhood Educators