Q&A: Pre-K project manager hired for county group

Meet Erica Woodward. The 37-year-old Charlestown resident is the new On My Way Pre-K manager for Jackson County.

She recently took the time to answer some questions about her new job and her goals for early childhood education here. Her responses follow:

How did you hear about this position and what made you interested in it?

I had applied to a different job opening with the agency that holds the (On My Way Pre-K) grant, Southeastern Indiana Economic Opportunity Corporation, for this position, and they thought that I was a better fit for the project manager opening … which they were so right about. The more I learned about the Pre-K program in Jackson County, the more I wanted to be a part of it.

What is your background? Do you have previous experience in early childhood education?

I previously worked for an agency that provided services to individuals with disabilities through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

I also was a part-time professor teaching interpersonal communication and professional development.

Before that, I taught preschool for eight years. I always say that I have taught the youngest of students and the oldest of students.

Why are you excited about the job and what are some of the first things you want to work on?

I am excited about this opportunity both personally and professionally. I have seen first hand how important early education is. In the years of teaching preschool, I had encountered so many children that were just simply not ready for kindergarten.

I am a firm believer that Pre-K programs provide a foundation for learning both socially and academically that will help the child succeed in elementary school.

I am excited to be part of the beginning of a program that the state of Indiana is trying to implement.

This could essentially change the face of early education and I’m proud to be a small part of it.

Some of the first things I have been working on is trying to get to know our wonderful Pre-K teachers and schools here in Jackson County.

I would like to add that everyone in Jackson County has welcomed me with open arms and I have encountered so many individuals that are so excited to see this program brought here. This is truly a special place.

What vision/long term goals do you have for On My Way Pre K in Jackson County?

My ultimate vision for Jackson County is to be able to provide high-quality preschool to every student in the area.

What challenges do you think the program has now and in the future?

Challenges in the area of Pre-K education are that some parents do not believe it is necessary. They simply feel their child is too young or that preschool is “playtime.” And neither of these are true.

What are some of the highlights or selling points of On My Way Pre-K in your opinion?

A major highlight of OMWPK is that the children are attending high-quality accredited programs. I have personally met all the Jackson County providers and they are all incredible.

What do you think of the progress that has been made so far in Seymour with early-childhood education in recent years? Can you talk about anything on the horizon?

Jackson County early education initiatives are like that of no other. I have never seen nor heard of any community that has dedication like this. They truly are behind providing the best education for their children. I have been impressed from day one.

We would love to see the OMWPK program expand across the state. We need to let our legislature know the importance of Pre-K education in the state of Indiana.

Erica Woodward

Age: 37

Where are you from? I am from New Washington, but currently reside in Charlestown.

Education and previous jobs: Proud Indiana University alumni with degrees in communication and advertising; two classes shy of my master’s degree in elementary education

Family: I have two teenage boys, 13 and 18. In my spare time, I beg them to hang out with me.

Favorite quote: “Don’t count the days, make them count.” — Ali

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.