Meet HighScope Hero
Meet HighScope Hero
“You learn the HighScope approach and you think, why would I do anything else?”
As the Co-Director and Senior Curriculum Specialist at The Family Connection of St. Joseph County, Inc., in South Bend, Indiana, Beth O’Connor focuses on creating opportunities for teachers to see the magic in each moment of their teaching experience, and for children to explore possibilities for learning in the world around them.
Beth appreciates every opportunity to engage with others who are interested in the positive effects of early childhood education. She says, “All children need is a little spark, a little nurturing, and they can learn. They want to do well. They want to do the right thing…and sometimes they do not know how. Some of the children come from very hard places. It’s magical to watch what happens in the classroom.”
With a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science earned in 1981 and a master’s degree in educational psychology awarded in 1983, Beth has worked in elementary schools and preschools since 1982.
Since joining The Family Connection in 2005, she has coached teachers and educators in all areas of early childhood education, including those related to curriculum, best practices, literacy, adult-child interactions, behavior challenges, and the impact of early stress and trauma on young children.
In addition to becoming a certified HighScope Trainer in 2011, she also became an assessor for HighScope’s Program Quality Assessment (PQA) and the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation Tool, Pre-K (ELLCO), from Brookes Publishing.
Beth was nominated to be a HighScope Hero by Paige Laskowski, a HighScope-certified teacher who formerly worked at Hope4Kids preschool, a HighScope-certified program within a community center and shelter serving homeless families in Indiana. Paige says, “Beth is a HighScope master who works tirelessly to give HighScope teachers in our community the tools they need to be successful. As a teacher who has attended many of Beth’s trainings, every single time I have left feeling enriched and inspired.”
The Family Connection brought the HighScope model to South Bend in 2005. From the beginning, Beth was impressed with HighScope’s approach, and she continues to appreciate HighScope’s leadership in the field of early childhood education through its high-quality curriculum and ongoing research. “They’ve brought in trainers on trauma and stress, diversity, and equity in education, which have become really important in our field,” Beth explains. “They’ve stayed true to their fundamental values while being responsive to what is happening in the world today.”
Beth says she is lucky to do the work she does and is quick to point out that she could not do it successfully without her “team of beautiful, righteous people” at The Family Connection. “We are all from different places and backgrounds and we come together to do this work. I am so lucky to get to do this work,” she explains.
Recently, Beth led several trainings for Head Start, Early Head Start, and community-based teachers in South Bend that focused on strategies for strengthening teachers’ resilience, hope, confidence, and positive focus during this challenging time of the COVID-19 crisis. Beth says, “We considered the unique and specific impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, especially its impact on vulnerable populations and those impacted by systemic disparities and racial injustice.”