Michael Connor joined the Early Learning Division (ELD) in August 2016 as a Preschool Program Specialist. In this role, Michael supports public preschool in Oregon and provides technical and training assistance to public preschools in Oregon. As a long-time Head Start teacher and coach, he has knowledge of how public preschool can work, both in training and partnerships with parents. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Western Oregon University, Chemeketa Community College, and Mt. Hood Community College, so has a deep understanding of early education and working with adult learners. Needless to say, Michael’s combination of work and experience makes him a good fit with the ELD.
When asked why learning experiences – particularly preschool – are important, Michael said “research and stories show how early learning experiences help kids regulate feelings, prepare for school, be good playmates and everything else we want for children.” He adds, “This is especially true for families experiencing poverty, racism, or challenged by disabilities, as they benefit the most from high quality learning experiences.” In our field, we have a strong commitment to success, but as Michael noted, “it takes many people working together to develop and maintain good programs.” With the ELD’s emphasis on equity, Michael prioritizes conversations with directors and instructional leaders to ensure we’re fulfilling the mission of the ELD: to reach kids farthest from opportunity.
While discussing equity with Michael, he spoke passionately about recent attention to the high expulsion and suspension rates. “Like all other problems, there is a layer of equity at play, as African-American children are being expelled at higher rates than white children.” But program and technical staff have started to tackle the problem, leading to a dramatic a national decrease in suspension and expulsion rates in the last couple of years. “We have good data and partnerships – this makes it possible for us to have an impact on making things fairer.”
“Oregon is in the middle of expanding and deepening their commitment to early learning and making a difference to those who haven’t been reached,” Michael stated. “This creates both a challenge and an opportunity, and I am excited to be a part of that.”