Jessica Lewis always felt called to the teaching profession. As a little girl, she would often “play school” with her stuffed animals, and as a teen, she frequently babysat.
“I’ve always loved little ones,” said Lewis, managing editor of continued Early Childhood Education (ECE). “The first few years of life are so important and set the stage for everything.”
Lewis followed her passion and pursued a bachelor’s degree in ECE from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR).
She went on to teach in a public elementary school before transitioning into a program for young children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This position ignited her interest for special education and led her to a teaching role in behavioral hospitals in Little Rock, Arkansas, and nearby Benton. As a kindergarten-sixth grade teacher in these facilities, she worked with children with a variety of behavioral challenges who typically lived in the hospital for a few months.
“A child’s brain is developing so much in the first three years of life, so we need good early childhood professionals making a difference in those early years.”
She earned a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from UALR, and for the next several years she worked as an early childhood special educator with children with unique needs, including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, complications from prematurity, and various intellectual and developmental disabilities.
As her career progressed, Lewis developed a curiosity for early educator training and ultimately grew passionate about quality training for teachers who work with this age group.
She started working with Early Care and Education Projects (ECEP) through the University of Arkansas to disseminate information and training to early childhood educators statewide in a variety of settings, from daycares to in-home child care centers to Head Start programs.
“A child’s brain is developing so much in the first three years of life, so we need good early childhood professionals making a difference in those early years,” Lewis said.
It was this enthusiasm for teacher training that led her to continued, which was in the beginning stages of adding ECE to it family of professions.
She assumed the managing editor role in November 2017, and continued’s ECE library launched the following April.
“One of the things I always loved most about being a trainer is sharing information that would allow teachers to better themselves and also better support their students and their families,” Lewis said. “I feel like with this position, I may not be directly training people, but I’m still part of sharing the crucial information. Through continued, I can do that on a much grander scale and reach many more people.”
continued’s ECE library had over 50 courses when it launched and now offers more than 150 courses covering a variety of topics.
"We want our training courses to equip ECE providers with the tools they need to help children and their families thrive.”
“It’s been really exciting to be a part of this from the beginning,” Lewis said. “I really feel like it’s my baby and I know every piece of it.”
In addition to adding curriculum to the course library, Lewis is working on the forthcoming launch of the Child Development Associate credential, the most widely recognized credential in ECE and a key step on the path of career advancement in the field.
“It’s important for educators to be their best when teaching young children and working with their families,” Lewis said. “We want our training courses to equip ECE providers with the tools they need to help children and their families thrive.”
Lewis lives in Bryant, Arkansas, with her husband and their dog and cat. As members of various Jeep clubs, they enjoy riding trails in the national forests. She also collects snow globes, enjoys reading, and travels to the beach as often as she can.