Retired professor of early childhood education
Laura Massey spearheaded the online Early Childhood Education Distance Partnership (ECEDP) program that has provided nearly 90 Head Start teachers on Montana reservations opportunities to complete their education through online classes. Massey's belief that early childhood education provided by Native educators is important in combating Native student dropout rates was one of the motivating factors. She faced technological challenges – access to computers and the Internet (in 2000 Montana reservation communities), as well as the challenge of participants’ lack of computing knowledge and skills. Even though ECEDP wasn't yet grant-funded, Massey and her partner, Leona Skunkcap from Blackfeet Community College, managed to pull together enough equipment and training to get it off the ground. Nine students from the Blackfeet Community College graduated from the first cohort in 2003. The partnership expanded to include six tribal communities at 16 Head Start/early childhood sites. The partnership has also served to establish lasting connections between tribal Head Start teachers across the state. Before ECEDP, most of the tribal programs operated independently. Now, they share ideas and success stories and keep each other motivated. Ultimately, Massey succeeded in providing students with MSU’s high quality, early childhood curriculum with unique culturally appropriate considerations.
Laura Massey wanted to avoid the fate of other failed distance learning programs around the country. Shortcuts were not an option for her as she created the ECEDP project. Massey personally mentored the instructors and established the necessary connections.