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Bela Moté started her career teaching at a Montessori preschool. She had taken the job out of a budding interest in working with children, but it quickly became her passion.
“I fell in love with the 3–5 age group and knew I wanted to specialize in early childhood education.”
Moté also quickly realized she would need more training and began looking at graduate schools. While researching a program at Columbia University, a faculty member there pointed her toward Erikson Institute because of its exclusive focus on early childhood. She took that advice, and what she learned in her master’s program at Erikson about the importance of taking a relationship-based approach to teaching is still with her — a decade and several career changes later.
She has been a teacher, an Early Head Start administrator, a senior program officer at Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and a program director at Teaching Strategies. Currently, she is vice president of Bounce Network (now the Educare Learning Network). In this role, she works with the Ounce of Prevention Fund and their partnership with The Buffett Early Childhood Fund to establish Educare programs in communities across the country.
“It’s a very organic process in that communities decide on their own that they need an Educare school. After they come to us, we help to draw out the support elements to build and manage the school from within that community. That’s where I come in, the process of partnership building.”
She points out that, like children, every community partnership is different, both in terms of culture and needs. She says Erikson taught her to be sensitive to that, a lesson that has helped her to be effective in the process of bringing together the key stakeholders required for an Educare school.
The stakeholders include an anchor philanthropist to lead the capital campaign, a program provider (possibly from Head Start or Early Head Start), and a public schools partner to provide operating dollars, land, and other support. All three share in the governance of the Educare school, and Moté works with these partners to ensure that the Educare model and its core features are maintained while achieving the unique goals of the community.
Her earlier work in several areas of early education helps her understand and connect with the funders, administrators, and educators she works with.
“My career path has been rich and interesting. I can appreciate how the components — families, school systems, private sector, and government — fit together,” she says.
“And each one of these opportunities has been a steppingstone to the next endeavor, and my Erikson education is the foundation for all of it. At the end of the day, no matter what part of the process I’m involved with, I have to be sure that what I’m doing will ultimately benefit children. Because of Erikson, I have that confidence.”
To make sure others benefit from all Erikson has to offer, Moté serves as an officer of the Alumni of Erikson Institute, the association that brings graduates together and supports the institute’s work in many ways.
“We talk a great deal in our society about return on investment in early childhood. To truly realize this investment, you need effective, high-quality programs and a strong, capable workforce at every level in the field. Erikson does that. It helps to insure that our youngest children are prepared for school and life.
“I want Erikson to be there for the future generations of children. There is no better institution to support their development, and so I have to do whatever I can to support Erikson’s development.”