The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic inquiry into the lives of six early childhood administrators. The researcher investigated stories these early childhood administrators told about their lived experiences and searched for patterns that emerged from the stories suggesting career paths, personal characteristics, and administrative styles. The sample was obtained from a purposive/criterion sampling of the population. Six early childhood administrators were chosen based on their representation as a strong administrator who had experience with working with young children and families.
Data was collected through three interview sessions. The minimum time for each interview session was one (1) hour. An interview protocol was used in order to assure that each interviewee was asked the same questions by the interviewer. Each interviewee was made aware of the study’s purpose, procedures, and informed of their right to deny being involved in the study. Participants were interviewed and interview transcripts, audiocassettes, and other documents were used for concrete, contextual biographical materials. Participants were asked to review the profile of their career, personal characteristics, and administrative styles developed by the researcher.
This study has provided insight into six early childhood administrators’ career pathways, personal characteristics, administrative styles, and the uniqueness of their early childhood programs. This research expanded the early childhood literature by focusing on the administrator as the “gatekeeper to quality”, which included a structural component, process component, people component, and cultural component. Each early childhood administrator was interviewed and asked questions about each component in relation to one other and to the external environment. Each administrator arrived at her role through a different route. However, each one had an education in child development and early childhood education. The personal characteristics and administrative styles shared by all the administrators included: concern for children and families, high expectations, value of trust, respect, sense of professionalism, belief in teamwork, nurturing the nurturer, and high demands.