Another source of inspiration is her “sense of personal and professional responsibility to engage with the community as an education professional and serve as an advocate for children and the field of education.” However, finding the courage to be an advocate has not always come naturally for Ethridge. Reminiscing about her advocacy journey, she shared, “It was not easy for me to speak up. My voice would be quivering, my knees literally knocking, my hands shaking, but I spoke up for children and felt that they needed an advocate. That is what drives me. Children still need advocates and they need them from all sides. Advocates for their families, their teachers, and at the state level where decisions are made for schools.” She encourages educators to “have the courage to speak up and act instead of listening to that all too familiar inner voice that says, ‘you can’t make a difference.’ You must try and then you will be amazed at what can be achieved.”
Ethridge’s belief in the power of community and advocacy is transformational. A large part of the job of an early childhood educator is creating a classroom community where students care for one another, show empathy, and respect one another. The way that Dr. Ethridge teaches her students to create such a classroom community is first by showing them to engage with their own communities – where they live, work, and play – and to build networks by getting to know people. “You never know what collaboration will come from a new connection. Build a foundation for future collaborations.”
Sharing her secret of community engaged teaching, Ethridge said: “Community engaged teaching cannot be done in isolation. As educators, we must get out of our classrooms and at the same time, we must invite others into our classrooms.”
Post by Laura Latta, Ph.D.