Meredith Burton, director of the Furman Child Development Center, has received the Marian Wright Edelman Advocacy Award from the South Carolina Association for the Education of Young Children (SCAEYC).
The award was presented to Burton during the Annual Conference of the SCAEYC, which was held in early October at Midlands Technical College in Columbia.
The Marian Wright Edelman Advocacy Award recognizes a person who has made a significant contribution that changes the lives of children in positive ways. Marian Wright Edelman, whose advocacy efforts for children are known worldwide, is a native South Carolinian and the director of the Children’s Defense Fund. The SCAEYC chose to honor Dr. Edelman by establishing an award in her name.
Burton, a Furman University alumna and president of SCAEYC, says she is delighted to be named this year’s recipient. “Marian Wright Edelman has dedicated her life to the wellbeing of children and families by supporting programs and policy changes that improve the lives of underserved children,” she said.
“I think early childhood educators need to be given a voice in the advocacy realm and I am working to do that, through advocacy training, encouraging early childhood educators to register to vote, and by participating in national public policy work that hopefully models to other educators that they can do the same. There is a lot happening in the nation and in our state around early childhood education and if we don’t speak up as the experts, no one will.”
Burton recently participated in a field study to Finland, which was led by Public Education Partners, Furman Department of Education, and the Riley Institute at Furman. The purpose of the study was to gain insight into critical challenges facing South Carolina public education.
Said Burton, “I have so many takeaways from the Finland experience. I think what struck me most was the honor the Finns place on childhood. They truly protect the early childhood years as a time for play and fostering the joy of learning. Time is valued and children are not rushed to perform academic tasks at young ages.
“Early childhood teachers are professionals that have a strong knowledge of child development, and the family is respected as an integral partner in the educational process. That dedication to protecting early childhood really establishes the foundation for a system-wide philosophy of education that focuses on the whole child and the learning process from birth through upper secondary education,” added Burton.
Burton holds both a bachelor’s in early childhood and elementary education and a master’s in reading/literacy from Furman. She taught K5-first grade for 20 years in public and private school settings, and now serves as an instructor for Furman graduate studies in education.
She also was a member of the advisory council for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for Families website. Locally, Burton serves on the education advisory board at North Greenville University and on the board of Greenville County First Steps.
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