The first five years of a child’s life represent critical windows in physiological, social-emotional, and cognitive development. Administrators of early childhood (EC) programs play a pivotal role in determining the quality of experiences that unfold for young children in center-based care. Using photovoice, semi-structured administrator interviews, and participant-observation, we aimed to identify the factors contributing to one center’s atypically excellent outcomes with diverse children and families. Our textual and photographic analyses revealed three findings. First, administrators saw themselves as embedded within a larger system of barriers characterized by low positionality within an educational caste system that is marked by pervasive resource scarcity. Second, with external supports marginal at best, they leveraged multiple internal supports and resources, including agency, interdependence, and advocacy. Third, administrators operationalized literacy leadership by building and sustaining a climate of professional support for teachers within a “25 Books a Day” guiding philosophy.


Early Childhood Education, Leadership, Photovoice, Equitable Access, Poverty, Literacy, ECE Leadership

Author Bio(s)

Kristi Cheyney-Collante, PhD, is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Special Education at the University of Florida. Dr. Cheyney-Collante’s research focuses on teaching and learning in high poverty communities, early language and literacy development, and beginning reading instruction/remediation, with an emphasis on intersectional qualitative research, and the use of participant driven research methodologies, photovoice, and visual ethnographic inquiry. Dr. Cheyney-Collante is a frequent speaker at local, state, and national conferences. In addition to journal articles and book chapters, she has exhibited multiple photographic installations, photo essays, and other creative projects that highlight the experiences of children and families placed at risk and the teachers committed to serving them. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: cheyneyk@coe.ufl.edu.

Melissa Cheyney, PhD, CPM, LDM, is Associate Professor of Clinical Medical Anthropology at Oregon State University (OSU) with additional appointments in Public Health and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is an expert in feminist critical theory, qualitative and ethnographic methods, and photovoice methodology. Dr. Cheyney is the author of the ethnography entitled Born at Home (2010, Wadsworth Press) along with several peer-reviewed articles that examine the cultural beliefs and clinical outcomes associated with midwife-led birth at home. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: cheyneym@onid.orst.edu.


We would like to thank DELC’s teachers, administrators, children, and families, for their willingness to participate in this project. Also, special thanks to curator, Charlie Cummings, MFA (Lecturer, Innovation Academy at the University of Florida) for his technical and artistic assistance.

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