A community leader in the field of childcare who describes herself as a catalyst to help people find their potential will be honoured by Selkirk College later this month.
At age 35, Judy Pollard came on board with Selkirk College in 1978 and was one of two founding members of the Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) Program. Alongside Selma Sheldon, setting high standards at the onset was critical to the educator who remained open and eager to incorporate new instruction techniques and up-to-date developments in the field throughout her career. She retired from the college in 2003.
Selkirk College’s 2016 Distinguished Educator Award will be given to Judy Pollard at the Graduation Ceremony held in Castlegar later this month. Pollard was instrumental in developing the Early Childhood Care & Education Program and continues to work as an advocate for children and families into her retirement.
At the Selkirk College Graduation 2016 Ceremony on the Castlegar Campus, April 22, Pollard will receive the honour of Distinguished Educator for her tireless work for children and families through Selkirk College and beyond as an advocate in the field.
“The work is so very important. It’s very much values based,” she says, thrilled to learn of the tribute to her and her career. “The essence of it all is really to have a strong value of the importance of the children and to learn how to work with those kids and their families and be able to listen and pay attention.”
Born in British Columbia, Pollard lived in the United States and British Columbia, then moved to Alberta where she studied in the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary. After graduation in 1964, now a public school teacher, she married and made a home in the Kootenays with her husband who was from the area. Her family lived in the Yukon, Western Alberta and the East Kootenay before settling down in Castlegar and then Nelson where Pollard still lives today.
Placing an Emphasis on Early Childhood Education
Pollard went from public education to being an early childhood educator and was working in childcare services in Castlegar when she became part of a community committee that approached Selkirk College asking that an Early Childhood Care & Education Program be started in the region.
In her 25 years as an instructor in that program at Selkirk College, it’s a conservative estimate that Pollard was instrumental in the education of over 400 early childhood educators. Connections with those students were invaluable to her.
“Every student, just like every child is a learning experience. People are unique and they bring so much of themselves to a learning environment,” she says. “It wasn’t just a matter of delivering a course and having them do assignments. It was far beyond that, it was really learning about them as individuals.”
Former colleague Toni Hoyland speaks highly of Pollard’s development of the well-respected ECCE Program, her positive contributions to the college community and the supportive environment she created for student learning.
“Judy recognizes skills and abilities in students and colleagues, and she makes a point of supporting people to access opportunities and use their skills in a variety of ways,” she says. “Judy was an excellent instructor, energetic, focused, interactive and supportive of critical thinking. I learned so much about teaching from her. Her passion for children and families infused her course and her expectations of students.”
Connections at the Core of Education Excellence
Pollard took time away from Selkirk College to complete her master’s degree at the University of Victoria where she focused her research on the importance of students’ practicum experience, an integral part of the ECCE Program, and the role of mentorship to support learning.
“I believe human beings learn best when they are in connection with other human beings,” Pollard says. “In practicums, people have a strong mentoring relationship with their supervisor. It is about observation, but it’s also about having that incredible opportunity to dialogue with them and be challenged.”
Pollard was the instigator and driving force behind the development of Selkirk College Children’s Centre. When it opened in 1999, not only did this child care centre provide an invaluable service to students and staff, it also enhanced the learning of ECCE students.
“We set up a playgroup in our classroom two mornings a week and we had our students bring a group of children from the college centre to that playgroup. Students could really do child studies carefully, and program planning. They worked in teams to coordinate the running of the program,” she says. “It was hugely enriching to them.”
Pollard sat on a variety of regional, provincial and national boards in addition to her work directly in the classroom and on campus at Selkirk College. At present, she sits as on the West Kootenay Boundary Early Years Council, The Board Voice Society of BC, The West Kootenay Boundary Supported Child Development Program Advisory Committee, and is Chairperson of the West Kootenay Boundary Community Services Co-operative. Pollard is also a long-standing member of the Selkirk College Early Childhood Care & Education Advisory Committee. She is a past president of Early Childhood Educators of BC, and continues to participate in the organization.
Building relationships and being part of the broader community was important to Pollard, her students and Selkirk College because of the flow of knowledge it enabled.
“We are all part of a very broad community and we all have things to offer, but we can enrich ourselves from that broader community as well. It’s a very reciprocal process. We reach out and we share and we bring back and we share,” she says.
Passion Vital in Early Education Field
To Pollard, bringing this experience into the classroom to enhance her student’s political awareness was an important aspect of their education.
“We need to know about that,” she says. “We need to understand that. In order to make advancements for ourselves and our communities, we need to have that kind of interaction.”
Since retirement, Pollard hasn’t stopped working. Along with spending time with her family—her husband (also a retired Selkirk College instructor), three grown children and three grandchildren—she enjoys golf, skiing and hiking and learning ukulele. She continues to be active in the child care community driven by a passion that has never waned.
“Working with children is really about the heart and that’s where passion comes from, the heart,” she says.
Pollard was open with her emotion in the classroom and encouraged her students to care about the children they worked with.
“Early Childhood Educators always wear their heart on their sleeve,” she says.
The Selkirk College Graduation 2016 Ceremony takes place on the Castlegar Campus on April 22 starting at 12:30 p.m.