Empowering the Essential: RWCCC Adapts to a New Educational Experience

December 23, 2020
by Melody M. Pannell
Director of Development for Roberta Webb Child Care Center

During COVID-19, the mission of The Roberta Webb Child Care Center has evolved and expanded tremendously. We are not just “serving ethnically diverse families by providing affordable and quality childcare,” we are empowering our “essential workers” and empowering our children to adapt to a new educational experience. The majority of our families have been deemed as “essential workers”and the education of our children continue to be “essential” to the future of our community and our overall society. We have worked diligently to adapt to our new realities with a deep sense of professional responsibility, personal integrity and ethical standards.

As we were striving to keep the foundational educational milieus, core values and practices, we found new ways to stay safe, stay connected and stay engaged with our children, families and staff members. We embarked upon innovative and creative ways to practice physical distancing and enhance educational and socio-emotional learning. In the midst of the many changes and challenges that our families are experiencing, we recognize how important it is to ensure that our children continue to receive quality education in a safe and nurturing environment. We also know how crucial it is for parents to be able to depend on our staff here at RWCCC, so they can take care of their work responsibilities and provide for their households. Our work here at RWCCC is essential, and it is essential that we remain encouraged to continue this sacred work.

Roberta Webb continues to serve the community with adaptations. Photos courtesy of Melody M. Pannell

However, this new level of empowering an essential educational experience has not been easy to create, implement or maintain. The lack of unity within the governance of the field of childcare has been discouraging and frustration at times. There are many governing partners, yet there is not a main governing body for early childcare education. As to be expected, crisis has a way of highlighting and bringing out the growing edges, gaps and social disparities within a particular system. Many times, we don’t know what we don’t know until we find ourselves in need without solid answers and direction. In many cases, Early Childcare Education policies and practices are fluid and procedures are not standard across the field. Therefore much of the decision making falls on the wisdom, experience and leadership of our Executive Director, Mrs. Angela Rouse.

Our Executive Director, Angela Rouse has emerged as a leader within the childcare sector due to the effective transition and social learning models that were implemented. She expanded her professional network, reaching out to those in higher positions so she could advocate for the needs of RWCC and the early childhood field overall. This resolve to “empower the essential” and resiliency to overcome the unexpected challenges of COVID-19 has been a remarkable experience. Angie relied on the resources that became available throughout the Harrisonburg community to renovate our classroom spaces, and outdoor playground to create indoor and outdoor educational areas that can still encourage healthy socialization. Angela also had to learn how to manage the changes in ratio of children and staff due to new classroom structures, decreased enrollment availability and personnel safety needs and precautions. The wellbeing of our staff and their own families were also priorities, as our staff are deemed essential and are making personal sacrifices to provide services to our children each and every day.

This current pandemic has also put a spotlight on the low value that our education systems and society place on children, childcare workers and families that are historically and presently marginalized. The need for quality childcare and creative ways to fill these critical gaps are crucial in the time of COVID-19. RWCCC is finding ways to fill in these gaps by providing dinner twice a week for our children and families and we are also partnering with Immanuel Mennonite Church to provide learning space for children attending Harrisonburg Public Schools that do not have access to internet services or safe spaces at home to engage in remote learning. In reflection on the life and legacy of our namesake, Mrs. Roberta Morgan Webb, we can only imagine the many challenging circumstances that she learned to overcome throughout her mission to give children the gift of education as well as the social and systemic disparities that she envisioned the children in her community overcoming. Her work was indeed essential. It is on this strong foundation of resiliency and faith that our essential legacy of empowering our children for a successful educational journey continues.

We invite you to empower RWCCC to spread the gift of education that will impact generations to come. Your partnership encourages us as we endure the realities of COVID-19 and adapt to a new educational experience.