Related Professional Experience
Students who have taken Mary Quest’s class are likely well acquainted with stories of her children — they often factor into discussions.
This isn’t just because Quest is a proud parent, although she is. Rather, one of the best ways she says she has found to understand child development theory and research is to connect them to real-world events and personal experiences.
“I see making that connection between theory and practice as part of my job as a teacher of adults,” she says. Not only do stories from her life play a role in discussions, she encourages students to talk about their own experiences, either personal or professional, and consider how they relate to what they are learning.
Quest comes from a family of educators and has taught at a range of levels, from preschool through college. Regardless of what or whom she has taught, one belief has remained constant: The importance of relationships in learning.
“The main thing I’ve found in teaching is that relationships drive learning and discovery and help learning stick,” she says. “In the context of positive relationships, young children and adults really cling to what they are learning.”
Among Quest’s academic interests is seeking to understand how early childhood practitioners identify themselves and their professional roles. One way she does this is through curating and creating professional development content for Town Square, an online learning community for family child care professionals developed by Erikson Institute in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services and Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development.
With Town Square, Quest connects with home-based, family child care providers throughout Illinois and beyond, gaining an understanding of their practical needs — what could help them do their jobs from day to day — and their professional needs — what would could help them deepen their knowledge and skills or advance their careers.
She has also been an instructor in Erikson’s International Initiative, working with early childhood educators in China to offer professional development opportunities and help them gain a deeper understanding of child development.
“Everything about Erikson is focused on doing work in early childhood that is grounded in an understanding of child development,” she says. “You can’t effectively work with children unless you understand child development in a fundamental way.”