Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Childcare Center Owner Travis Manley by Mike Prochaska

Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Childcare Center Owner Travis Manley

Travis Manley, from Omaha, Neb., owns his own childcare center called Foundations Progressive Learning Center. "It’s a small, 2500-square foot converted office space with a licensed capacity of 28 children. We employ four people full time and one person part-time. We accept children ages 3 to 6," says Travis. Read on to learn even more about him!

Q. How did you get into Early Childhood Education?

"I applied for a full-time job at a large childcare center in Lincoln, Neb., halfway through my junior year of high school. To this day, I’m not sure why they granted me all the hours I wanted but I was able to schedule it around school at the time. I originally floated between classrooms but eventually became known as the person who would save the stressed out teachers from needless conflict with children. Anytime someone was 'frustrated with' a child, they’d call me over the sweep that child up and let them accompany me on my tasks throughout the center, so that everyone could get a break – teachers and children. By the time I graduated high school, I was a full-time teacher to toddlers, then preschoolers."

Q. What is your favorite activity to do with the kids?

"I like to engage with the environment like the captain of an improv team. I like to make and build activities out of scraps and random items lying around. One day, I decided to boil up some pasta and put it in a sensory bin with shaving cream and glitter, because that’s what I saw when I noticed we had some kids needing a sensory experience. I don’t tend to join in play unless I’m explicitly invited. I like to play the Montessorian role of observer, because with my age group we tend to have children who would rather not involve the adults anyway.

"I like to play Simon Says, because it’s one of the games where I can fully assimilate new kids to our program’s culture. When I play, it’s loud and boisterous. I never don’t say “Simon says” because I just like them to repeat crazy tasks after me and to shamelessly yell obnoxious things."

Q. Why is play important for children?

"Play is the process of learning. Play is the process of processing experiences and realities. It’s a behavior that evolves over time and we adults do the 'adultified' versions of it every day without noticing how it helps us. Once we can see it we can appreciate it."

Q. What about outside play? Is it important?

"Appreciating play outdoors is important mainly because of the health impacts – the fresh air, the connection with nature. Beyond that, my belief is that any play that can happen outside should also be allowed inside. Large motor skills are necessary and doable whether you’re inside or outside."

Q. What's your favorite memory working with kids?

"One of the first days my program was open, a child said to his mom at pickup, 'I got my shirt messy, but I didn’t get in trouble because they said it’s OK to get messy at this school.'"

Q. What's your favorite book you read to to classroom?

"I am a big fan of anything William Joyce. I generally don’t make the decisions of what I read. If I’m asked to read, it’s always whatever the child who is asking’s choice. Many kids in my program like 'The Sad Book' by Michael Rosen."

Q. What about roughhousing with kid? 

"It’s definitely allowed, so long as all parties are clearly consenting."

Q. Anything inspiring to tell someone thinking of going into this field? 

"Remember to identify yourself always as a professional. Don’t let anyone belittle you, this is a professional job, and just like any such job, some people are hired as warm bodies. Do everything you can to separate yourself from them and show the world this job is important, this industry is necessary, and this career should be lucrative."

You can learn more about Travis at ProgressivePreceptors.com.

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