Thompson Rivers University

Donor boosts peer mentoring for early childhood educators

November 22, 2021

KAMLOOPS– An anonymous donor is contributing $1.4 million to expand a peer-mentoring program for early childhood educators to keep them from leaving the profession.

The funding goes to work headed by Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Associate Professor Dr. Laura Doan in partnership with the Early Childhood Educators of BC.

The donation provides $1.4 million over three years to expand the peer mentoring program Doan started as a pilot project in Kamloops, which was based on what early childhood educators said they needed.

That pilot grew to involve 17 peer-mentoring community-of-practice groups throughout BC, each of them with six pairings of one experienced and one beginning early childhood educator, plus one or two facilitators. The project officially ended in 2020 with 200 ECEs and 20 facilitators. This funding allows the project to expand to 35 peer-mentoring communities-of-practice groups, with close to 500 early childhood educators taking part.

“This experience demonstrates what is possible when we support early childhood educators in the way they should be supported. This shows me what can work when you give ECEs the opportunity to come together to support each other. They are able to come up with their own solutions. I walked away with so much respect. With this funding, we aim to firmly embed peer mentoring within the early childhood education culture in BC, as well as within the professional association representing ECEs in BC, the Early Childhood Educators of BC,” said Doan.

“We are pleased to see recognition of the need for supports for early childhood educators, especially finding a way where they can help each other to build their resiliency and retain them in the profession,” said Emily Gawlick, executive director of Early Childhood Educators of BC.

“This project is finding a way to improve retention of early childhood educators as well as raising the bar for all of them professionally as they share their experiences and learning.”

Some participants in the pilot project have said it is the reason they have remained in the field. Peer mentoring has kept them from feeling isolated and frustrated; the connections with other ECEs gives them safe spaces to talk about their challenges without judgment.

According to the Canadian Survey on the Provision of Child Care Services from January of 2021, over half of child-care providers in Canada were unlicensed and home based. Child-care operators report long waiting lists, parents of newborns worry about whether they’ll have a space by the time maternity leave ends and affordability versus reasonable wages are ongoing issues.

The peer-mentoring network is one tool in making it easier for early childhood educators to do their jobs ensuring the wellbeing of society’s youngest members.

“Dr. Doan’s outstanding work in early childhood education exemplifies TRU’s commitment to partnership development, community engagement, and the co-creation of research solutions to societal challenges. The peer-mentoring network she has established mobilizes leading edge theory and practice, making a positive difference for early childhood educators and, as a result, improves the quality of care and education that children receive. The generous funding announced today will expand that network and increase its impacts,” said Will Garrett-Petts, associate vice-president, Research and Graduate Studies.

“This initiative benefits not only students, but also graduates and families in the communities where it is being implemented. I am so proud of what Dr. Laura Doan is achieving with this project and I anticipate seeing how it makes a difference to early childhood educators going forward,” said TRU President Brett Fairbairn.

Watch the video of some of the pilot project participants.


Laura Doan, Associate professor, Faculty of Education and Social Work | 250-371-5760

Emily Gawlick, Executive director, Early Childhood Educators of BC | 778-994-8001

Michele Young, Strategic Communications, Thompson Rivers University | 250-828-5361


About the peer-mentoring network:

In 2018, Dr. Laura Doan began a pilot project in Kamloops to develop a provincewide peer-mentoring network that would support early childhood educators (ECEs) so they would stay in the field. With up to half of all ECEs leaving the profession in their first five years, and a shortage of day-care spaces throughout BC, retaining these educators is important for affordable and safe child care.

The pilot expanded to 17 communities and more than 200 ECE participants. It included peer mentoring, online support and access to professional development through a community of practice. Individual peer-mentoring groups got together once a month in person or virtually to build relationships and learn from each other. ECE pairs can also meet weekly, in person, online or by phone.

It is important to note that these are peer mentors, not a mentor/mentee relationship. So although one of the peers is likely to have more experience, the other brings fresh learning and perspectives and they are able to learn from and support each other.