Elizabeth F. Criswell

Current Employer: University of Minnesota Twin Cities    

As an undergraduate majoring in English literature, I chose to also seek a certificate in Children’s Literature. I pursued the topic because of my love of literature and illustration and my interest in the history of this complex literary genre. Ten years later, I work in the Early Childhood Education department at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. I divide my time between working with young children and educating teacher candidates pursuing teaching licenses. Although not obviously related to my current career, I frequently exercise many of the skills I acquired as a student of Children’s Literature at the University of Pittsburgh.

The ability to think critically about children and their families is an asset that enriches my work with them. This contemplative approach to everyday educational practice helps me make decisions and adaptations that account for social, cultural, and individual considerations, which are described in literature with a complexity and nuance unmatched by other forms of analysis. I strive to emphasize these qualities as I assist future teachers as they develop their own reflective practices.

In addition to emphasizing child development and evidence-based practices, I encourage future teachers to think deeply about the way we use language in the classroom and in the education field, the underlying beliefs behind our classroom practices, and our own conceptions of what is “typical” or “appropriate” for young children.  I could not have developed this reflexive and critical attitude without my study of children’s literature and the various cultural theories informing it. Although inspired to pursue the Children’s Literature certificate due to an interest in English literature, I developed ways of thinking that proved invaluable in my career as an educator.