Tracy Craker Early Childhood Education Instructor/Program Chair at Western Technical College I earned my teaching degree with an ECE minor, from UW-La Crosse. I remember sitting in class all those years ago thinking, "I want to do that someday!" Teaching at the technical college combines my passions of advocating for young children and being a teacher. I have been in the ECE field since 1993 when I began as a Head Start teacher. I had student teachers from Western and enjoyed learning more about teaching alongside them. When the instructor from Western came to observe them, she asked if I was interested in teaching adults. Mary Henthorne became a wonderful mentor as I began at Western almost 20 years ago. At Western, in addition to teaching students who are working on certificates, credentials, and/or an associate degree in ECE, I also work on a grant committee, "Influencing the Future through the College Success of Students with Children.” I am also on the Board of Directors of The Parenting Place. I love their mission, “Supporting and empowering a community of adults who nurture thriving children” and see this as my goal with my students as well! I am most proud of the graduates who make a difference in the lives of children and families every day. It is an honor when I place students in a classroom with a Western ECE alumni or when I see one of them advocating for young children and/or the profession on social media. I do not think those outside of the ECE field realize the importance of the first years of life. From forming strong attachments to avoiding traumatic experiences, the nurturing of brain development can have life-long implications. During early childhood, the foundation is created. It is an exciting time in the field as local, state, and federal eyes are on the issue of childcare. Changes need to be made in the infrastructure so that we are recruiting and retaining the best as early childhood educators! I also believe in the value of play. I hope as changes are made in ECE, the focus remains on learning through play and the importance of social-emotional development.