For Elizabeth Tertell, teaching and serving in education leadership positions go hand in hand. It’s a philosophy she brings to each course she teaches at Erikson Institute: To do one well, it’s helps to have a firm grasp of the other.
“Teaching and leadership are both about creating community and seeing the strengths in every family, every child,” she says. “Both roles are about relationships. I tell students their relationships with parents and staff are similar to dating. You don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who consistently tells you what you need to change or says, ‘Here’s what I didn’t like about you.’ If you want to have a relationship with families, you need to be able to let them know the great things you see and know about their children before saying, ‘Lets talk about areas for improvement.’”
Tertell’s passion for young children and families began while studying psychology in college and volunteering with a child care program. After observing practices among the educators in the program that were less than ideal, she decided to pursue a career in child development to help bring about change in how children are cared for and taught.
That path led her to teaching in programs serving children across the socio-economic spectrum. She later held director positions for schools first in Chicago, then in Oregon, and finally back in Chicago.
Tertell was a pioneer in teaching online classes at Pacific Oaks College, and combined with her years as a teacher and director, she brings that experience brings to her current role as director of Erikson’s online Leadership and Advocacy program, a concentration within the Online Master of Science in Early Childhood Education Program.
“In online learning, especially in Erikson’s program, you really get to know people,” Tertell says. “There is no opportunity for you to not be tuned-in. You have to be present, and your voice needs to be heard.”
In addition to teaching courses online and on-campus, Tertell is an instructor in Erikson’s International Initiative, providing professional development opportunities and bringing Erikson expertise in child development to educators in West Africa and China.
Regardless of what country she is working in, she brings the same belief in the importance of relationships.
“When you think about learning, it’s a relationship with other people — the people in the class, the people leading the class,” she says. “It’s also a relationship with the materials. It’s thinking about how I’m reading this book, making connections to previous experiences, and finding opportunities to gain new insights.”
- MEd, Instructional Leadership, University of Illinois-Chicago
- BS, Early Education/Human Development, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
Areas of Expertise
- Social constructive curriculum
- Anti-bias curriculum
- Working with families
- Classroom environments
- Leadership and administration topics
- Early literacy
- Consultant, Chicago Public Library Play Spaces
- Consultant, World Wide Orphans
- Co-Director of Town Square
- “Selecting culturally relevant and anti-bias materials for your environment” [online module]. Tertell, E. & Nimmo, J. (2016). townsquareil.org/grow
- “Supporting children’s understanding and articulation of rights: helping children find their voice.” Childhood Education. Fowler, A, Tertell, L, Flynn-Rambo, & Peterson, J. (2016)
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- Erikson Institute Webinar: Developmentally Appropriate Tech, May 2020
- Shine Early Learning: Ongoing Series for Paths to Quality Coaches Summer 2020
- Oak Park Collaborative: Windows and Mirrors, February 2019
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Related professional experience
- Faculty member, Pacific Oaks, Columbia College, National Louis and Indiana University
- Director and Child and Families Programs Supervisor
- Program Director, Starnet
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