Professional Resource

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Finding a Place at the Table

by Raquel Munarriz Diaz, EdD, Success Manager, Lastinger Center for Learning, College of Education, University of Florida 2018–20 ZERO TO THREE Fellow

Greetings from South Florida! My name is Raquel Munarriz Diaz, and I am a current ZERO TO THREE Fellow. If I could describe myself in six words they would be: Feisty Latina, empowering others through collaboration. I am the youngest of three. I was born in Puerto Rico and came to the United States when I was 4 years old. My parents were born in Cuba and left the island due to the Communist regime. I share my mom’s name and genes. My mom also wanted to be an educator, but was not able to complete her high school degree due to the political climate. Her face would beam with pride when she would see me line up my teddy bears and teach them. Upon earning my doctorate, she cried while I walked down the aisle. I had dedicated my dissertation to her.

My mom was always self-conscious about her accent and never talked in public. I would get so frustrated and tell her, “Mom, everyone has an accent. You have a lot to share. Talk”! She would smile shyly and still not speak. As part of the Fellows program we had to present our Vision for Change. My vision for change is inspired by my mom. My vision for change is to ensure Spanish-speaking practitioners feel empowered to share their wisdom and continue to grow in their career pathways through the use of collaborative, reflective tools. Communities of Practice use collaborative protocols to help ensure that practitioners feel safe and brave to reflect on their practice, learn from each other, and advocate for themselves. I believe we can truly make a difference with our dual language infant–toddler workforce if we provide intentional spaces for them to collaborate. As part of my vision, my first goal has been to design and facilitate a Spanish language Community of Practice. I am most excited about introducing the first Community of Practice for Spanish Practitioners institute in order to help facilitators work with the Spanish-speaking workforce. The institute will kick off at the end of May. Beyond helping set up Communities of Practice for Spanish Practitioners, I also want to ensure the workforce feels supported and heard. I want to work with higher education in order to ensure professional development opportunities articulate into college credit and enhanced career pathways.

“I have seen that my contribution is only one piece of the puzzle that leads our youngest children to thrive.”

In my short time with the fellowship program, I have been able to refine my vision for change and learn how to impact systems change through the use of adaptive leadership. During our first meeting as a ZERO TO THREE Fellowship cohort, I was humbled to see so many amazing early child care professionals who are also dedicated to supporting the well-being of young children and their families. I have seen that my contribution is only one piece of the puzzle that leads our youngest children to thrive. My cohort consists of folks from all over the globe and from many early childhood fields. I am learning how we complement each other’s work and how our being at the table together is an intentional plan. I look forward to our next retreat in June, and I especially look forward to reconnecting with the ZERO TO THREE community when they come to my hometown for the annual meeting. I will be the feisty Latina sitting at the table; speaking her truth; and listening to the wisdom of others.

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