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Staff Spotlight: Early Childhood & Family Education’s Gretchen Dullinger

Staff Spotlight: Early Childhood & Family Education’s Gretchen Dullinger

Gretchen Dullinger has worked for Osseo Area Schools in early childhood education since 2001, starting as an early childhood education teacher before becoming the Early Childhood & Family Education (EC&FE) Program Assistant at Willow Lane Early Childhood Center in 2012.

“I loved teaching, and in this job I get to support teachers,” Dullinger said.

EC&FE provides children ages birth through five and their families with support to grow and helps set the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Most EC&FE classes include time for children and families to grow together, time for children to explore independent learning and time for parents/caregivers to meet with licensed educators and feel encouraged by the support of others. In the early childhood classes, children are able to play together and with the teachers and parents have time to talk with other parents, such as in the parent education courses. 

“It’s not time to learn how to be a parent, it is time for parents to get support and resources from other parents,” Dullinger said.

Dullinger likes working with scholars in early childhood because they are just beginning their education journey and are passionate about learning new things while between the ages of birth to five. Working in early education, she gets to work with children during a time of large developmental growth

“We get them as babies and get to see how they grow until they are five,” Dullinger said.

No two days are the same for Dullinger in this role, and she gets to wear many hats. She helps out with early childhood screenings, scheduling screeners and substitutes for screenings and talking to parents about their children's screening results. She works with administrative assistants to set up screenings at schools and sites in the district and community and helps to deal with the finances associated with parents for the programs. One of Dullinger’s favorite tasks is supporting teachers in curriculum or assessment and observing and supporting students in the classroom. 

Dullinger is a member of the Minnesota Association for Family and Early Education (MNAFEE) advisory committee, which seeks to promote, advocate for, and strengthen parenting education, Early Childhood Family Education and early childhood programming in public schools. Dullinger helped to organize a recent in-person event at the Capitol in St. Paul to gather families, legislators, and educators together to emphasize needs of families and the impact of EC&FE. 

A highlight for Dullinger has been her work with MNAFEE, getting two bills, one in the house and one in the senate, passed and sent to Governor Walz for his signature. These bills would provide early childhood support in the Minnesota Department of Education.

"Gretchen is invaluable to the EC&FE team. She supports many different aspects of the program including Early Childhood Screening, curriculum and assessment, student needs, teacher development and more. Gretchen also works to advance ECFE at the state level. She is knowledgeable, collaborative, trustworthy, and fun," said Sally Nault-Maurer, Early Childhood Program Coordinator. 

Dullinger’s favorite thing about working at Willow Lane is the dedicated staff, scholars and families that she works with each day. 

“You meet a lot of awesome families and sometimes they have multiple kids you get to see over multiple years,” Dullinger said. “The teachers all support each other. It is a community.”

In her free time, Dullinger loves to be outside, play sports, spend time with her family and travel.