Headshot of Paula Drew

Paula Drew

Co-Director, Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network (WEESSN)

In my junior and senior year of high school I volunteered in a kindergarten classroom and the idea that each child could grow up to make the world a better place was incredibly inspiring to me. Since then I earned a few degrees, taught in every early childhood age group, was a director at a non-profit ECE center, have done and continue to do outreach, training and advocacy, and now I’m in my current role with WEESSN.

My Co-Director Kelly Matthews and I got to create WEESSN around the supports we wished we had access to when we were doing direct care. We support ECE professionals as business leaders and as educators (along with the many other hats they wear). What I love the most about this work is that it’s all about collaboration and sharing of resources. Our providers benefit tremendously from the efficiencies and expertise that being a part of something bigger has to offer.

There is a lot of “behind the scenes” work that is done and I am fortunate that I work with a small and nimble team of coworkers who can pivot quickly to meet the needs of network members. During the early days of the pandemic, my colleague Chanel Clark and I collaborated with community partners to adapt CDC guidelines, licensing rules, federal relief funding information, etc. so that they were easily understood, responsive and realistic for operating during very difficult times. We created a guidance document and series of webinars to help people understand how to be as safe as possible while continuing to operate. We pulled some really long days/nights/weekends and it was totally worth the effort knowing how many people continue to use these resources. Someone once called WEESSN the Ghost Busters of ECE, that makes me smile.

ECE professionals have deep wisdom to share and bring to the table. Sharing their stories and stories from our field has always been my favorite type of advocacy and I do so with love on our WECA blog page. The top of my wish list is to see compensation, fringe benefit packages, and respect for all regulated Family Child Care and Center-Based ECE professionals to be on par with K-12 educators. I’d also like to see shared services networks like WEESSN widely available to all providers.