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This study examines how policy directives and recommendations implemented during a massive universal Pre-Kindergarten expansion in New York City has impacted teachers’ professional identity. We adapted the critical ecologies of the early childhood profession by Dalli et al. (Early childhood grows up: Towards a critical ecology of the profession. In Early childhood grows up, Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 3–19, 2012) and utilized data from in-depth interviews with teachers at community-based organizations in Pre-K programs. Our thematic analysis of transcripts revealed three themes in relation to teachers’ professional identity: becoming a teacher who can play multiple roles to meet administration’s expectations is necessary; continuously modifying practice based on external support from the leadership and policymakers can be confusing; and having a brand new relationship with administrative bodies presents challenges. Data drawn from these themes reveal external factors that have influence over teachers’ professional identity. As there is heightened attention toward publicly funding early childhood in the U.S., and the need for a respected workforce, the implications of this work includes seeking out teachers’ voices to meet their localized needs to support healthy professional identity development while they adjust their practice in response to the policy change.


Article was originally published in the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, available at

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