Meet HighScope Hero
Meet HighScope Hero
ELIZABETH “TRACY STEEN
Dedicated to helping children be their best selves
HighScope Hero Tracy Steen, a Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) lead teacher with Webster Early Childhood Center in Hazel Park, Michigan, is celebrating 25 years in the field of early childhood education this year. She likes to joke that she and her daughter Sabrena Steen started preschool at the same time, but Tracy never left.
As Tracy explains, “I began volunteering and substitute teaching for Head Start when my youngest daughter began attending the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) at Edison Preschool.” Soon after, Webster Early Childhood Center hired her as a full-time Assistant Teacher. Over the years, Tracy has served in a variety of positions, including Assistant Teacher, Homebase Teacher, and Family Involvement Coordinator. In March, she was promoted to the position of GSRP Lead Teacher.
Tracy recalls her introduction to HighScope 20 years ago when Hazel Park Head Start was selected to participate in a HighScope Curriculum pilot training and implementation program for the Oakland County School District. “I was trained by Michelle Graves [a teacher in the HighScope Demonstration Preschool] and fell in love with the curriculum right away. I loved how it empowered children and allowed them the opportunity to gain independence and develop critical thinking skills,” says Tracy.
Throughout the years, interactions between Tracy and her students have become a hallmark of her classrooms. “I encourage my students to talk to each other and to talk to me,” she says. “Ask questions instead of sitting there quietly. I think that’s the best way you can find out what they are interested in, and that’s how they build connections with each other.”
True to the HighScope method of following children’s interests, Tracy’s students often create parties based on what they care about instead of having traditional birthday and holiday celebrations. Recently, with her support and encouragement, her students planned an animal costume fashion party that involved the children making and modeling butterfly, unicorn, tiger, and shark costumes. The children learned about the animals, designed their own costumes, and created invitations for their families to attend the party. As Tracy explains, “HighScope empowers kids to be independent, but also to be a part of the community…to take care of each other and the environment. When you are open minded and take the children’s lead, the lesson can often go above and beyond what you could even imagine.”
Outside of the classroom, Tracy actively promotes HighScope, giving presentations on HighScope’s philosophy at local early childhood education conferences in both Oakland County and neighboring school districts. In 2017, Tracy gave a presentation at HighScope’s International Conference on community building and Teacher Action Research, a method that teachers use to improve their own classroom practices.
Tracy was nominated to be a HighScope hero by her supervisor Andrea Bratton, who said upon the nomination that “Tracy has a deep understanding that how you teach makes a true difference. She is dedicated to equity and learning for all children and she provides them with every opportunity to be their best selves.”
Tracy holds an associate degree in early childhood development from Oakland Community College and is currently enrolled at Rochester University in an accelerated bachelor’s degree program in early childhood studies.