Get to Know: Tracy Jost  

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Get to Know Tracy Jost


by The Johns Hopkins University School of Education Center for Technology in Education
 

Tracy Jost, Education Program Specialist,

Maryland State Deparment of Education

 
Tracy JostThe path to becoming a teacher can sometimes seem mysterious. In fact if you ask around you will discover that every teacher of children with special needs has their own story of how they earned their degree and found their way into a classroom but also how their experience changed the way they thought about their profession. Early childhood expert and school owner Tracy Jost is no exception, and her trajectory is as illuminating as it is inspiring.

 

Jost began her career in a very different place. “I was working at a law firm that specialized in family law,” she explains. Witnessing the challenges families, especially children, were facing on a daily basis made Jost realize she wanted to devote her life to helping kids. Most aspiring teachers soon discover that a desire to work with children might launch a career but it is hard work and sacrifice that define it. In Jost’s case pursing her passion meant earning a Master’s Degree in Education and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Education Public Policy at night while holding down a full time job. The road was tough, the hours long, and the rewards fruitful.  After earning her Master’s degree from Towson University, Tracy worked as a teacher and eventually opened Kid’s Campus, Early Learning Center.


The center, which has grown at a steady pace and now contains eleven classrooms serving infants to kindergarteners in its daily program and infants through middle schoolers in its popular aftercare program. Serving both children with disabilities and their typically-developing peers, Kid’s Campus is proud of its reputation for inclusiveness.


Inclusiveness was one of Jost’s passions from the very beginning.  She believed in the power of creating a nurturing place where all children could learn from each other. The push for inclusiveness that began with only one child has become a defining hallmark of the school.  It is no wonder.  Studies have shown that inclusiveness has lasting benefits for children with disabilities and typically-developing children. Jost has seen the power of the approach in action.  In her experience the children take to it naturally.  As friendships develop, the children learn from each other and develop the sense that the world is filled with many different types of people who are each valuable and unique parts of society as a whole.


Kids Campus Early Learning CenterAssessment is a crucial part of Kid’s Campus’s tool kit.  Kids enter the center very young, which puts Jost and her staff on the front line to detect when “something just isn’t right.” Kid’s Campus utilizes the Teaching Strategies Creative Curriculum Assessment Tool as well as Ages & Stages Developmental Screening Tool to assess progress in many developmental areas.  Jost discovered that the process was more fruitful the more parents were educated about and involved in the assessment activities.


As devoted as Jost is to the children she serves, she is as equally passionate about her profession.  A former president of Maryland chapter of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and a current member of Towson University’s graduate faculty, Jost is a firm believer in being a continuing learner.  In her view, education never stops and spreading the word and imparting hard won wisdom is just as important as her days working one-on-one with children.  Her passion hasn’t escaped notice and in 2011, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley appointed her to a four-year term on the Governor's State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care.


The professional staff at Kid’s Campus reflects Jost’s respect for her profession. Most parents aren’t aware that Maryland has a program that recognizes childcare providers who choose to go beyond the requirements of State licensing and regulations. Known as Maryland EXCELS, the program has five ascending levels, each recognizing a childcare provider's fulfillment of a specified number of training hours, years of experience, and professional activities that lead to quality childcare. At Kid’s Campus nearly all of the staff are involved in the program, striving to obtain or maintain a credential level four or higher through continuous professional development. Over the years many staff members have earned advanced degrees and become public school teachers, further enriching the local community. Paying it forward, Kid’s Campus often provides financial assistance for staffers who are working to complete a degree.


One thing all teachers need is support and Jost has plenty.  Her family is her greatest joy and where she finds peace when the stress of the job is piling up. While still on her own educational journey, Jost’s advice for aspiring teachers is to follow what you love and be willing to work hard and listen harder.  “Communication is really important.”