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Culture, Connection and Current Staffing Issues in the ECE Environment with Rachel Supalla

This webinar was a lively discussion between Karen Titolo, IKS Academy Director, and Rachel Supalla, owner and founder of Discovery Kid Zone.

In 2009, with a background in preschool, Rachel Supalla founded Discovery Kid Zone, which quickly grew from a small center in Rachel's basement to multisite centers in multiple states. In 2020, Rachel and Discovery Kid Zone were named Innovative Business of The Year.

Rachel holds a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Administration and is internationally trained on child care methods, such as Montessori, the Reggio Emilia approach, and social-emotional development. Rachel has a passion for mentoring, coaching and teaching. She loves to collaborate and work with fellow business owners, directors and leaders. Rachel also works as a child care success coach with the Child Care Success Company.

The following are some highlights from the webinar:

Rachel reminds us that creating a positive school culture, even in this great resignation employment environment, is still one of the most powerful tools for attracting and retaining ECE employees.

As owners, directors and mentors, our job is to unleash the tools within our staff. This is when people are at their best and they want to come to work.

Paying a competitive wage and finding ways to increase benefits is expected. When we rely only on financial incentives, our focus switches from a positive culture to a culture that has lost its passion, and this often leads to low morale. Our focus should be on providing a competitive living wage and creating a positive culture. Your culture is your brand!

Rachel reminds us that the 6 most important incentives a company can offer are:

  • Intentional company communication

  • Company sponsored events and activities

  • Recognition programs

  • Incentive programs

  • Skill development

  • Wellness programs

Rachel creates an “Intentional” culture by planning a yearly calendar of events that connects people. Connection reminds us WHY we are doing what we are doing. When culture is your driver, employees have a connection to the “why” behind something and a deeper connection to each other and the company emerges.

Rachel suggests using the “one word that will change your life” approach for creating a unified vision within the staff and across multiple schools. Rachel has found that the simple power of one word is that it impacts all six dimensions of life: mental, physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and financial.

Rachel, also, bases her fun connection activities on the 5 love languages. She regularly plans activities that appeal to all love languages:

  • Acts of service

  • Receiving gifts

  • Quality time

  • Words of affirmation

  • Physical touch

Some things that Rachel has done include the following:

  • To keep the word going throughout the year, Rachel plans a specialized focus of the word every quarter. For example, if the word is “Thrive”, then for the first quarter, the focus will be on: “You deserve to thrive”. All staff and parent activities will focus on mental health and how you deserve to thrive. The next quarter would be “thriving in the classroom”. Activities would focus on classroom environments, curriculum, and how we can help parents to understand the curriculum better. The next quarter would be “thriving outside”, and the focus would then be on outdoor classrooms, outdoor parent events, etc. The last quarter would focus on “thriving in our community” and events would be taken into the community.

  • Rachel then plans the monthly or weekly staff appreciation activities, the monthly staff training activities and the monthly parent and community event activities using the word for the year.

  • A monthly calendar showing all the parent/community activities is produced and distributed to the parents. The staff calendar includes the parent activities and the additional staff activities, such as, the scheduled one-on-one times for the director and each staff member.

  • Every year Rachel does a leadership retreat. During the retreat, the strategic planning is done, as well as choosing the word of the year.

  • Themed staff training is done yearly.

  • These activities are included in the annual budget. Rachel reminds us that the activities don’t need to be expensive, but they must be planned and budgeted for.

“When you work for a purpose bigger than yourself, it’s not just about money, it’s about where you’re going and who you are going with.” – Rachel Supalla

For more information contact Rachel Supalla


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