Staff Spotlight: Katherine Hodges
Research Project Coordinator Katherine Hodges is a recent addition to Rutgers GSE’s NIEER team. Hodges comes from a long history of working in early childhood education but found her way to NIEER last summer. Before becoming a part of NIEER, Hodges was a teacher for many years and taught from the preschool level all the way up to second grade. Ultimately, as she made the transition into her new position at NIEER, she said that the amazing work NIEER was doing to fight for equity in classrooms, the diversity of interests, and the push to influence beneficial local and national education policy changes among others were major selling points that led her to pursue a career with NIEER.
Hodges has a longstanding relationship with and love for early childhood education. Since she was in high school she has dedicated the work that she does toward the betterment of early childhood education. When asked why she wanted to pursue a career in early childhood education, Hodges said, “To me, it’s the most fun. I love the fact that you have no idea what is going to come out of kids’ mouths and I’ve seen the incredible things that early childhood education can do for them.”
In her current role as Research Project Coordinator, Hodges plays a big role in developing NIEER’s State of Preschool Yearbook, an annual publication that tracks the funding, opportunities for access, and policies of state-funded preschool programs. She worked very closely on the yearbook over the summer and into the start of this school year and has now also started working with Preschool Education Expansion Aid (PEEA) to look at opportunities for expansion grants to bring more state-funded preschool programs to New Jersey. Hodges said that something she loves about the work she does with NIEER is that she has the ability to collaborate with a number of different people on varying tasks and that there is variation in the work that she does. “I love that NIEER influences the direction of early childhood education in so many different ways and that the work I am doing can help children now and in the future,” said Hodges.
Besides the work she does for NIEER, Hodges is also a part of the Rutgers community in another way— as a GSE student working toward achieving her degree in the Teacher Leadership concentration of the Ed.D. program. She has been able to have an interdependent relationship with the work she does for NIEER and her studies. “I always knew I wanted to go back and get my doctorate and I really like the idea of linking my work and what I am studying so that I could do things to benefit both of them,” said Hodges. In the future, she hopes that the work she does for NIEER and in her doctorate program will help her to be able to positively influence policy work surrounding early childhood education and to continue to create quality early childhood education opportunities for kids. Additionally, Hodges would like to find a way to integrate the work she does now with opportunities for hands on work with teachers and students at the school level.
Hodges has been an amazing addition to NIEER and the GSE thus far— her dedication and excitement for contributing to the fight for quality early childhood education opportunities directly aligns with the GSE’s mission to Advance Excellence and Equity in Education. Outside of her work and studies, Hodges enjoys spending time with her husband and two dogs. They often spend time outdoors hiking together, and she loves when she gets opportunities to be with her family. In the end, Hodges is excited for what the future holds for her at NIEER. One of her life-long career goals was to work in education policy, and she is grateful for the opportunity to be able to fulfill this goal with the work she does at NIEER.