Working in ECEC

John Hefler

John Hefler: Early Childhood Educator - Early Learning Centre, Algonquin College - Ottawa, ON

John Hefler went into early learning and child care 30 years ago “not with any motivation to change the world but to explore and see what [the field] was about.” At Algonquin College, where he studied early childhood education (ECE), he was one of only two men in a class of 40. (One of the other students later became his wife.)

Hefler soon discovered he had the skills to work with young children, and never looked back. 

After getting his ECE certificate from Algonquin, he studied at Ryerson University in Toronto and received a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree (specializing in ECE). He worked in two child care centres in Ottawa before going to the Early Learning Centre at Algonquin College. The centre provides child care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, and serves the students at the college. It is also a facility for teaching ECE students.

“It’s a real team approach,” says Hefler, who works with the preschool children with two other ECEs (one of them also a male). “There is good energy and when things work well you put in a really good day and you come out energized.”

As a long-time ECE, he has attended two weddings of grown-up children he once looked after. He says he feels it is important for early childhood educators to be empathetic, and to work collaboratively with families.

Hefler says he’s been asked many times why a man would want to go into a female-dominated occupation, but the gender make-up of child care has never been an issue for him.

“A good male educator is neither super nurturing nor super masculine,” he says. “You need to be well rounded so that when you work with the children you don’t just project that you are male, but an honest and credible person.”