A nearly $300,000 grant from the Helios Education Foundation will allow Northern Arizona University’s College of Education to partner with the Flagstaff Unified School District on a professional development outreach program for early childhood educators and providers in northern Arizona.

For now, the collaboration will provide professional development training opportunities at Flagstaff schools, home child care providers and local centers with outreach expanding to outlying communities and providers in the second year of the program. Another piece of the project will be the associated research to evaluate its impact.

The funding will support an outreach effort designed to help early childhood educators in schools and in the community identify and understand the best practices to help children succeed, explained Dan Kain, former dean of the college and author of the proposal. Interim dean Gypsy Denzine will oversee the project.

“We are appreciative that Helios believes professional development is a crucial aspect to make a difference and improve the lives of children by improving the skills of their providers,” Kain said.

He described the program, called Foundations of Professionalism: Transformative Change through Professional Development, as a multidimensional outreach effort that may ultimately lead to the creation of a physical “learning hub” for early childhood education, including the development of P-20 early childhood curriculum and internship opportunities for NAU education majors.

“Younger children should be given every opportunity to grow, learn and reach their full potential, and we can be a part of that by helping those who work with them build upon their own strengths as educators,” Kain said.