Jane Keat

Jane Keat

Image: Penn State

Jane Keat, Jim Johnson receive distinguished career awards

Two longtime Penn State faculty members who long have had a resonating voice in the field of early childhood education have earned the 2017 Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC) VOICE for Children Distinguished Career award.

Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education (ECE) Jane Keat, Penn State Harrisburg,, and Early Childhood Education Professor Jim Johnson, College of Education, University Park in April will receive the only statewide award recognizing the grassroots leaders whose work impacts the quality of care and education for young children in diverse settings.

“In curriculum and instruction, we value the connections among research, practice and advocacy for early childhood education,” said Rose Zbiek, head of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “Jim’s and Jane’s acknowledgement is a sign of the strength of our Early Childhood Education program over the decades and its contributions to education in our state. We have not only one strong voice, but a program that prepares educators to make a difference for the duration of their careers.’’

PennAEYC’s mission, according to Johnson, includes advocacy and having excellent early childhood education in the Commonwealth, quantity and quality of programs and teacher compensation.

“I am thrilled being named PennAEYC 2017 co-recipient of the Career Achievement Award with Jane Keat, who is a good friend and colleague and a graduate of our ECE doctoral program,’’ Johnson said. “This award is special to me because it represents recognition of my efforts to make a difference in ECE over time close to home.’’

For Keat, the news about the award will cap a rewarding career. “My reaction was surprise and great pleasure,’’ she said. “News of this award arrived a few weeks after I decided to retire from a 50-year career in the field of early childhood education, so the award seemed to include the message that my 22 years of preschool work and my 28 years of university work had been appreciated by others.”

Keat holds dual roles at Penn State Harrisburg: Chair of Teacher Education Programs, which includes four degree programs and seven instructional certifications, and principal investigator of the Capital Area Early Childhood Training Institute, which provides a variety of learning opportunities for teachers working in the field of child care in a 16-county region of Pennsylvania.

Johnson said PennAEYC is dedicated to promoting the application of knowledge to settings in which young children and their families reside, and hopefully will thrive. It’s directed to have the most effective practices and policies possible to improve the lives of children across a variety of settings -- families, child care centers, preschools, kindergartens, after-school programs and elementary schools.

“As a professor at a Research 1 university, a great deal of what I do is national and international and connected to writing and research and scholarship,’’ Johnson said. “However, local and regional work including service is just as important, if not more so, as other activities I do.

“I believe one’s ‘living biography’ is just as important as the publication record on one’s resume, if not more so. Being professional requires trying to serve and connect to people, working on projects championing young children and their families. Passing this sentiment and goal along to my students and others is an important part of this philosophy. Strive for all three: teaching, research and service.‘’

Keat has won a national award for excellence as an early childhood teacher educator and has received awards on the Penn State Harrisburg and Penn State York campuses. Her advocacy work for young children occurs in three categories.

“First, my research advocates as it focuses on the influence of teacher research within the classroom practice of teachers of young children and is published in journals for early childhood professors and teachers,’’ Keat said. “Second, I advocate each time I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in which students learn the theory, research and recommended practices for teaching children, birth through grade four.

“Third, my advocacy efforts occur in concert with other early childhood educators in Pennsylvania as we work together on task forces and work groups to call other Pennsylvanians to pay careful attention to the development and learning needs of our youngest citizens in child care and primary grades,’’ she said.

 “Jim’s and Jane’s acknowledgement is a sign of the strength of our Early Childhood Education program over the decades and its contributions to education in our state. We have not only one strong voice, but a program that prepares educators to make a difference for the duration of their careers.’’--Rose Zbiek, head of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Johnson expressed gratitude to the College of Education for its overall assistance and for embracing a more “contemporary and progressive” P-12 model. “I am in my 34th year here and have never been happier with all the support I have received,’’ he said. “The leadership in the C&I (Curriculum and Instruction) department and the college encourage me greatly, I think, in recognizing ECE and important changes taking place in education and ECE.’’

There also is administration and faculty support shown for the new proposed inter-college (with the College of Health and Human Development) undergraduate minor called Early Development and Education, Johnson said.

“I am very encouraged regarding the future of ECE in the College,’’ Johnson said. “Young children are our nation’s most precious natural resource. I call ECE the hopeful science, and I am very hopeful being here now.

“I think I am receiving this award because of my longevity and all the wonderful people who have helped me and have worked on the same things I care about.’’

Keat has received support from three campuses of Penn State University. At Penn State York, she received support in the form of consistent encouragement to “do what was right for children’’ in courses and in the community.

At University Park, she received support from the College of Education in the form of learning opportunities and relationships with knowledgeable and caring professors throughout the doctoral degree program. Since 2003, she has received support from administrators and colleagues at Penn State Harrisburg in the form of opportunities to continue to develop as a teacher, researcher and advocate for young children.

“As I prepare to retire from university work, I leave as professor emerita,'' Keat said. "I hope I will find new ways to make a difference for young children.’’