Working in ECEC

Rachel Besharah

Rachel Besharah: Early Childhood Educator, Toddler Program, Centretown Parents Day Care; President, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2204, representing child care workers in Ottawa, Ontario

Rachel Besharah "fell into child care" at a young age. "My mother works at Centretown Day Care so I was raised in an environment where the importance of quality care was instilled at an early age, and I was in day care when I was a child," she says.

She was also raised in a labour household, and becoming a union activist was another natural fit.

Besharah started working in child care as a substitute, and after taking a number of night courses went on to study early childhood education at Algonquin College. “I realized that the kind of good day care centre I wanted to work in would have low turnover and so I needed to have some training to be able to get a full-time job.”

It’s been nine years since she became a permanent employee at Centretown, a non-profit, parent-run cooperative serving infants up to kindergarten-age children.

Rachel works in the toddler program with two other teachers, providing early childhood care and education to 13 children aged 18 months to 2 ½ years. The duties of staff in the program range from toilet training and diaper changing to promoting the development of cognitive, gross motor, language and social skills through artistic, sensory, group and outdoor play, as well as stories, song and dramatic play.

"I also enjoy working with the parents and developing relations with the parents," says Besharah. "That’s a big focus of mine."

Her dual role as teacher and union president for 220 members working in 11 centres means that she is often out of the program, but she feels a union presence in child care is important. "It is definitely a factor of quality for reasons of recognition, better pay, benefits and working conditions. All workers rights need to be protected, but the added benefit is that better recognition of child care workers, compensation and working conditions all contribute to quality child care."