Angelique Marshall | Ms. P's Day Care
2023 Early Educator of the Year, home-based, Award Honoree
Co-Sponsored by DCAEYC
Although Angelique Marshall had a career with the Department of Defense for years, she discovered her true calling after her daughter Tanisha was born. When Marshall started looking for child care for Tanisha, who had been diagnosed with multiple disabilities, she was seeking an early childhood educator with the experience and expertise needed to properly care for her child. Unfortunately, she just couldn’t find it. “I decided I wasn’t going to keep begging for help,” Marshall recalled. “I was going to do it myself.” So she quit her government job, changed her major at the Central Texas College on Bolling AFB from business management to early childhood education, and became an advocate and educator for families with children with special needs.
In the three decades since, Marshall has woven together her work as an educator–running Ms. P's Daycare (named after her mother Patsy, also an educator)--with her professional and personal dedication to advocacy. She has served as a consultant to families through The HSC Health Care System, a trainer for the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, and a parent advocate with Advocates for Justice in Education. Marshall is currently pursuing her master’s degree in education. Her daughter Takia, who works alongside her at the center, recently earned her bachelor’s degree in early child development.
Ms. P’s Daycare is open to all children ages birth to five. While up to 90% of the children she works with at any given time have disabilities, Marshall intentionally welcomes children of all abilities, with the goal of creating an inclusive environment. “Unlike at schools my daughter attended, I don’t want to separate kids with disabilities. Children here learn empathy and sympathy. Older ones help younger ones—give them bottles, cuddle them, and support them.”
Parents often come to her with concerns, worried about doctors’ predictions of their children’s limitations. Marshall coaches parents through their fears. “One mom came to me, saying, ‘they said my little boy isn’t going to walk.’ I said, ‘No, he’s going to run!’ You’ve got to believe in and support the parent and the child. I tell them, ‘don’t give up.’”
Another challenge is when parents refuse to accept that their child has a disability, even when assessments and evidence demonstrate otherwise. In those cases, Marshall does the best she can to convince parents that providing the early intervention recommended by a diagnosis will give their children the best chance for a successful future. Marshall works hand in hand with Strong Start DC Early Intervention Program and Early Stages to ensure that children in her care receive the therapeutic services and medical care they need to thrive.
Because of her work with the HSC Health Care System, she has relationships with specialists who provide advice if needed. Marshall’s work with HSC has educated her about countless medical conditions and treatments, giving her resources she can share in turn with parents in her center. If one of her students is struggling, she will try different techniques, ask for advice, or look up videos on YouTube until she finds a solution, whether it’s giving a straw to a child who refuses to take medicine, or buying a weighted vest to calm a child on the autism spectrum.
A lot of what she shares with her families is simply the opportunity to have fun.
She’s taken her children to local restaurants for a family style lunch to both learn social emotional regulation skills and enjoy an outing. Last year she raised money by selling popcorn and donuts to organize a trip for the whole center to Disney World.
Marshall finds great joy in her work, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. “We don’t have a blueprint for special education because every child is different. Everybody learns at their own pace. But supporting children is truly a gift and that’s what we have to embrace. It might not happen today or tomorrow or the next day, but you just keep going. You don’t give up on them.”
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