First 5 Lex Partner Spotlight: University of Kentucky College of Education

We are in the midst of a blog series to show appreciation for our community partners and supporters! Today, we get to TALK with Kelly Sampson from the UK College of Education’s Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education program. This program prepares students for a career working with children, birth through five years. To learn more, click here.


Let’s learn more about UK College of Education’s Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education Program in our question and answer session with Kelly!

Can you talk about your role with the UK College of Education, and what a typical day may look like for you?

I work for the Interdisciplinary Childhood Program in the UK College of Education and teach three classes each semester. Prior to coming to the University, I was a Principal Administrator of Jessamine County Schools and the Jessamine Early Learning Village. One of the things I teach is language and literacy, which is a real passion of mine and coincides with a lot of the work I do with First 5 Lex. A typical day for me includes teaching courses, supervising student teachers for our Early Childhood program, doing community outreach and training students to teach young children and work with their families. My days are pretty full, but they are also exciting and fun.

Can you tell us about the College of Education’s community outreach? What role do you play in the community?

We do a lot. I’ve been on the First 5 Lex board since 2016, which has been really exciting work. I initially served on the literacy committee, where we developed the Kroger activity cards and the Read to Me Libraries. I also serve on the Family Consumer Science Advisory Board for Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, where we are working on getting a new early childhood pathway there for students to get involved before they transition to college.

Another fun thing is that Jessamine County, where I had served as a school administrator for so many years, is interested in replicating what First 5 Lex has done, so I’m serving on that advisory board as well. We developed a school readiness program along with local partners where we provided a program that ran two days a week in June and July. This was for 3-5 year olds from low income households. We provided literacy activities with free meals and backpacks for the children. COVID has put a lot of that work on hold, but we plan to restart this program as soon as possible.

Through the UK College of Education, I serve on the advisory board for Hope for Literacy. In this program, we support school teachers and administrators in Guatemala City by distributing books, lesson plans and materials for the teachers to implement. The students involved in this program have also helped collect books for one of the first Read to Me Libraries that was put in the Family Care Center.

Can you tell us some more about your Early Childhood Lab?

We have an Early Childhood Lab on campus that serves kids from birth until they go to kindergarten. This truly serves as our lab for everything that we do and helps us train teachers for certification as early childhood teachers after their four years at the University. If a student is studying infant/toddler development, then they’re working with a child at the Early Childhood Lab in the infant/toddler room. If they’re taking my guidance course and learning about behavior management, then they typically are in preschool classrooms. The Early Childhood Lab serves lots and lots of children. There’s always a waiting list for kids to get in because there are more people who want to have their kiddos at the Early Childhood Lab than spots we have available.

How does the UK College of Education align with First 5 Lex’s values? Why was partnering with First 5 Lex a logical fit?

The Early Childhood Program prepares teachers to serve young children and their families. Read, play and learn is the nucleus of our four-year certification program, so it lines up beautifully with First 5 Lex.

How long has the UK College of Education been a part of the First 5 community team?

We’ve been part of the team since First 5 Lex started. We felt really fortunate to be invited to one of the very first advisory board meetings.

Why do you think the First 5 message - to read, talk and play with little ones each day- is so important?

We now know that a child learns more between birth and age 2 than any other period in their life. At the College of Education, we believe it’s important to read, play and learn with babies from the very beginning. That’s what we teach and it couldn’t be any more well-aligned with First 5 Lex’s message of read, talk and play.

In your opinion, what positive change has First 5 Lex made in the community?

There’s an endless list - I couldn’t even begin to do justice to all that has been done over the years, but I definitely think that First 5 Lex has increased school readiness in our kids. First 5 has placed Read to Me Libraries in a number of locations in our community, so children are getting their hands on books and the activity cards that go with them. There has just been so much outreach, even through COVID.

How do you hope to continue to partner with First 5 Lex in the future?

I would just want to continue the work that we’re doing. First 5 Lex is an extraordinarily strong group of folks who come from diverse backgrounds and different professions. I think we’re just going to continue to play off each other with good ideas and bring more and more to the community that will help our kiddos be more prepared for school.


Just for fun:

What is your favorite children’s book to READ?

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams.

If you have an afternoon with nothing scheduled, how would you PLAY?

I would hike or garden, preferably with my grandchildren.

If you could TALK with one person, from the past or present, who would it be?

I would like to talk to Maria Montessori. She was the first female physician in Italy and also developed the Montessori Method.

Thank you to Kelly and everyone at the University of Kentucky’s College of Education who is making a difference in the lives of little ones by emphasizing the importance of early development, encouraging learning and cultivating the teachers of tomorrow!

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