December 6, 2018
Beth Graue says that her hidden talent is baking 10 kinds of cookies in one day before Christmas, and then wrapping them up and giving them away. Coincidentally, throughout Beth’s education career as a teacher, professor and researcher, much of her satisfaction has come from wrapping up the things she has learned and giving them away.
Though Beth’s decision to become a teacher came in college, her love for working with children came much earlier. As the oldest of six children, she spent most of her childhood surrounded by kids. After initial forays into other fields in college, she came to realize that early childhood was what she was most interested in, and she taught several different age levels after receiving her bachelor’s degree. “I still see myself as a kindergarten teacher, I think,” she says with a laugh.
Though she isn’t a kindergarten teacher anymore, Beth’s role as the director of the Center for Research on Early Childhood Education may bring her back into elementary classrooms as the new center ramps up. CRECE’s work is focused on closing opportunity gaps in education that limit children’s success. Much of the first year has been busy with building capacity and engaging with Madison Education Partnership on early childhood research projects. Part of this plan includes developing professional development projects for 4K teachers and—perhaps—for Beth to “find a way to weasel [her] way into some classrooms.”
Of her many responsibilities at CRECE and as the Sorenson Professor of Curriculum & Instruction, Beth is fondest of the time she spends with her graduate students. Many of these students also started as early childhood educators and returned to school to develop their research and theory knowledge. These students have great practice knowledge already and “working with them to develop research knowledge is fabulous,” Beth says.
Even at home, Beth gives away much of her time to her two dogs (who require lots of walking) and her husband, who is a chemistry professor at UW–Madison. The couple decided to make Madison their home when Wisconsin offered Beth a job straight out of graduate school and made her husband one of the first UW-Madison partner hires. They’ve stuck around ever since. They have two sons: Sam, who is a translator in Tokyo, and Max, who works at the Willy Street Co-op.
Beth’s impressive career has evolved in many ways from where she started, but she has no regrets about her line of work. Her yearly cooking-baking extravaganza always reminds her “why I need to stay in my academic job—I couldn’t do hard work like being a baker!”
By Caroline Daniels