Dr. Debbie Lee
Education was always highly valued in Debbie Lee’s family. Her grandmother, born in 1896, was a woman beyond her time. She had a Master’s Degree, taught at the college level and inspired Debbie, who planned to teach geometry someday. But along came marriage and children, and Debbie’s dream took a back seat. After working retail, she taught in a daycare center and discovered early childhood was a good fit for her. After attaining her Associate’s Degree in Psychology from Black Hawk College (Illinois), she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Education from Marycrest College (Iowa) in 1979.
For the next 20 years she gained experience working with hearing impaired children, teaching kindergarten, opening her own home day care and working in a variety of positions for the Moline School District. Meanwhile, she was also attending Western Illinois University in the Master’s program and raising three daughters. “I’m proud I lived through it,” she says. When she had taken all the courses offered in the Quad Cities area, she commuted to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and in 2003 received a Doctorate of Education. She taught at Scott Community College for several years and moved to Western Illinois University in 2008.
Dr. Debbie Lee's Video Interview
Interview with Dr. Debbie Lee
What do you love about teaching students entering the field? What’s most challenging?
The biggest challenge is requiring high-quality work (because I want the best for future generations) AND understanding that many of my students are also juggling work and family. I can empathize with them because I received all four of my college degrees while doing such juggling. However, it is also important that I require that their work meet certain standards. If children are the living messages, my college students are the phone line through which those messages are carried.
What is your philosophy of teaching?
How do you stay current with all the new research and information?
Why is quality education so important in a child’s future?
It is also important for children to learn HOW to learn. To develop a “filing system” that organizes what they know so that such knowledge can be retrieved when needed.
Lastly we are well-aware that skills such as reading and mathematical computation do not develop full-blown overnight. There are many foundational skills that are needed before these more academic ones can be acquired. It is during these early years that such foundational skills can be developed, thus providing the base on which later academic skills can be built.
What 3 traits do you feel are most important for working with children and their parents?
Patience: If you are an early childhood educator and have a week all planned out and it goes just as planned, you have probably stepped into another dimension and the Twilight Zone should be playing. There is no way with a classroom of young children that everything can go just as planned. It is important to have patience when things change – be it a schedule change or a child who needs extra time to get herself together. Young children’s brains may take a little longer to process things, and we need to give them the time to do this.
Curiosity: Any teacher who reaches a point and stops learning has also stopped true teaching. Teachers need to be life-long learners to model for their students what this is. Teachers should be learning constantly about new things. This might be a new teaching strategy, a new fact about something in a study unit, or a new way to communicate with others. It is curiosity that fuels this learning and it should never die.
If someone doesn’t want to be in a classroom, how else can one serve in the profession?
Many state-funded preschool programs require a parent involvement component. Someone with an early childhood degree could work with the parents of preschool children, if not directly with the children.
An individual could also help develop learning materials for preschool children. This could be the types of materials you find in a school supply catalog, books or apps for iPads. With the strong influence of the internet and social media, someone with a background in early childhood could host a website to help parents and/or teachers or have a blog with information for either of those groups.